Law School lures
Harvard fellow to faculty
A young attorney with an impressive Ivy League resume and extensive experience as a researcher, writer and lecturer in sentencing law and policy has joined the faculty of the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law.
Associate Professor Carissa Byrne Hessick is teaching Criminal Procedure and Criminal Law this year and will lead a sentencing seminar in April. Also accepting a post at the College of Law, as a visiting professor, is Hessick’s husband, Andy, who teaches Civil Procedure and Administrative Law.
The Hessicks, who moved to Arizona from Boston in June, met at Yale Law School, where they served as editors of the Yale Law Journal and earned their Juris Doctor degrees in 2002.
Although she’s lived mostly on the East Coast, moving West was appealing for a variety of reasons, from the good word on the College of Law put in by its namesake to the opportunity to work with some of the best scholars in their fields to a desire to live in a place with more open space and less road rage.
“I can’t tell you how happy I am to drive here,” said Hessick, 31. “I don’t think of this as traffic.”
A telephone message left one morning last spring by retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor on Hessick’s phone helped persuade her to accept Dean Patricia White’s offer. Hessick said she also was influenced by the presence of Jeffrie Murphy, Regents Professor of Law, Philosophy & Religious Studies, on the College of Law faculty.
“He is a giant in the criminal law field, and I feel extremely lucky to have access to someone as intelligent and insightful as he,” she said.
Just weeks into her first faculty appointment, Hessick said the position will enable her to maximize her skills and fulfill her interests, in ways that practicing law could not.
“Being a lawyer is much more isolating, because you’re in your office all day, reading and preparing for trial,” said Hessick, who has worked at the New York City law firm of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. “People become professors because they loved law school, and they really like the law.
“What I love about this job at the Law School is, while there’s still a whole bunch of `me in my office,’ preparing for class, I also have a lot of time to talk to people. I enjoy talking about issues, and not just what the rule of law is, but how did we get this rule and how good a rule is it?
“And the students here are very good at it. They are quick to question the rule.”
While in high school, Hessick discovered a passion and aptitude for debate. She honed those skills at Columbia University, where she was a national champion in the American Parliamentary Debate Association, and earned a bachelor of arts in linguistics.
At Yale, she won the Potter Stewart Prize in the Morris Tyler Moot Court of Appeals, for best written and oral argument, did an externship at the New Haven State’s Attorney Office, and published her first article, “The Right of Publicity in Digitally Produced Images: How the First Amendment is Being Used to Pick Celebrities’ Pockets.”
Steven Duke, a Yale professor for whom Hessick was a research assistant on several criminal cases, called her “unpretentious and seemingly lacking even competitiveness, yet she always ends up on top.
“I once said something to her that I have never said to any other student, before or since: `You are a teacher’s delight’,” said Duke, an Arizona State University alumnus and former visiting professor at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. “I was referring to the fact that she was undeterred by concerns about how she might appear to other students and freely questioned anything and everything that she found unclear or unpersuasive. She will do the same as a teacher and scholar. I can think of no greater predictor of scholarly success than her approach to learning.”
Hessick clerked for Judge A. Raymond Randolph of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, and for Judge Barbara S. Jones of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. While working for Judge Jones, she became intrigued by criminal law and the inequities of sentencing guidelines. She has since published four other articles, in addition to a work in progress titled, “Considering Prior Good and Bad Acts at Sentencing.”
It was always Hessick’s plan, though, to practice law for a few years, and then move away from the courtroom and into the classroom. The plan moved toward fruition when she was appointed a Climenko Fellow and Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School from 2005-2007.
“I was so lucky to get picked for this program,” she said. “It’s difficult for young lawyers who are trying to make the transition from practicing to teaching. You spend all your time thinking and writing about complex legal issues, and you have few teaching experiences and research opportunities.”
Hessick is thrilled to be taking over a sentencing workshop from long-time law Professor Gary Lowenthal, who retired in May and has met with her to assist with its organization.
“State and federal sentencing guidelines are so different, and this gives me a chance to, not only learn how things are done in Arizona, but also to have a great workshop where we bring in judges to talk about actual cases,” she said.
Hessick, who was mistaken for a student by ASU’s Parking and Transit Services and had to flex some professorial muscle to obtain her parking pass, said she hopes to pass along her passion for criminal cases to her students.
“The most important thing in my class is to show students how interesting this stuff can be,” she said. “If they think so, too, my job is largely done.”