JEFFREY C. DOBBINS
A Supreme Legal Educator I
“ ’ve circled around Willamette my whole life,” said Assistant Professor of Law Jeffrey C. Dobbins, a native Portlander. “I’ve always had a consistent level of respect for the College of Law. It is the most well-rounded law school in the state. Its relationship with state government and its location near the Capitol and state appellate courts afford students an important experience that is easily missed in other law schools.” Dobbins, who clerked for Justice John Paul Stevens of the U.S. Supreme Court, knows ﬁrsthand how working with lawmakers can strengthen a young attorney’s lawyering skills. “I hope to be able to draw on cases I’ve worked on and those at issue when I was a clerk to illustrate what relevant rules of law are and to illustrate what will be most relevant to my students’ careers once they graduate,” he said. Dobbins, who joined the College of Law in June, will teach Federal Courts during his ﬁrst semester at Willamette. “The class is about tactics,” he explained. “As a litigator, you need to understand how to get clients into a court that is both appropriate and desirable, and you never want to lose sight of why you should or shouldn’t be in that particular court. My background will allow me to insert practical experience into the more theoretical course material.” No doubt, Dobbins’ students will find his experience invaluable — and his background enviable. Dobbins attended Harvard University, where he studied the integration of science and history. “I thought very hard about pursuing an astrophysics degree,” he said, “but along the way, I discovered I liked a humanities approach to science.” Dobbins’ interest in the human side of science led him to enroll in dual programs at Duke University in Durham, N.C. While pursuing his J.D. at the law school, Dobbins also was enrolled in a master’s degree program in environmental management at Duke’s School of the Environment. He served as articles editor for the Duke Law Journal, as well as editor in chief of the Duke Environmental Law & Policy Forum. “I was interested in gathering information through scientiﬁc research then applying that information to legal and policy decisions,” he explained. Dobbins graduated from Duke in 1994, earning both a J.D. and an M.E.M. in resource economics and policy. He was ﬁrst in his law school class. Following graduation, Dobbins accepted a clerkship with Judge David S. Tatel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in Washington. He joined the judge’s staff just as Tatel was appointed to the bench. “It was a great experience,” Dobbins said. “It was
18 | Willamette Lawyer
Tatel’s ﬁrst year as a judge, so I was able to see him develop a process for making judicial decisions.” Dobbins was tasked with writing bench memos, drafting opinions and assisting in the disposition of general court business, such as emergency stays and petitions for rehearing. Dobbins said serving as a clerk to a new judge was a great deal of responsibility. “I had to make particularly sure that I was always right — that all my research was always correct,” he explained. After completing his clerkship on the Court of Appeals, Dobbins was offered the rare opportunity to clerk on the U.S. Supreme Court. In June 1995, he joined the staff of Justice John Paul Stevens. “It was a very different experience,” Dobbins noted. “By
In a Class by Themselves - New Law Faculty at Willamette: Paul A. Diller and W. Warren H. Binford (center), who joined the law faculty in 20...