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WVU Law Professor Explores Gandhi the Lawyer in New Book

Morgantown, W.Va. – Before he was the iconic leader of nonviolent political resistance, Mahatma Gandhi was a lawyer. 

A new book by West Virginia University College of Law professor Charles DiSalvo is the first biography that explores Gandhi’s transformative early years as a practicing attorney. 

In M.K.Gandhi, Attorney at Law: The Man Before the Mahatma(University of California Press, 2013), DiSalvo traces Gandhi’s journey of self-discovery from his education in Britain, to the failure of his first law practice, and his migration to South Africa. 

Based on exhaustive research, including rare archival material, DiSalvo focuses on the relationship between Gandhi’s practice of law and his embrace of civil disobedience. He illustrates how Gandhi’s background and experiences as a lawyer, particularly in racially segregated South Africa from 1893 to 1914, helped develop what would ultimately become the philosophy and practice of nonviolent civil disobedience.

“Gandhi became a civil disobedient, conscientiously breaking of the law, while he was a member of the legal profession,” said DiSalvo. “That’s a significant transformation for a lawyer and it put Gandhi on a path that would change the world.”

The Indian edition of the book was released last year to critical acclaim. The Asian Review of Books called it “a very powerful and original contribution to Gandhian studies.”

DiSalvo was invited to India to speak about the book at the Jaipur International Literature Festival – the largest book festival of Asia-Pacific. In addition, he has delivered lectures on the book around the world. 

DiSalvo is the Woodrow A. Potesta Professor of Law at WVU and teaches one of the few law school courses in the country on civil disobedience—inspired by Gandhi and others. He is also an expert on bioethics and the law, civil procedure, and trial advocacy. DiSalvo joined the College of Law in 1979 and he is co-founder of the West Virginia Fund for Law in Public Interest.

M.K.Gandhi, Attorney at Law: The Man Before the Mahatma is available now in bookstores and online.

Robinson & McElwee donates $100K to WVU Law for scholarships

Robinson & McElwee celebrates 30th Anniversary and honors the memory of a founding member Glenn Robinson with two WVU Law Scholarships

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — In honor of the firm’s 30th anniversary, Charleston-based Robinson & McElwee has established a $100,000 scholarship award program with the West Virginia UniversityCollege of Law. The firm has also created the E. Glenn Robinson Memorial Scholarship in memory of a founding member of the firm, E. Glenn Robinson.

The Robinson & McElwee Scholarship will benefit first and a second year law students, while the E. Glenn Robinson Scholarship will be granted to third year law students.

“Robinson & McElwee is pleased to celebrate our 30 year anniversary with the establishment of this new scholarship program, but we were saddened by the loss of our founding partner, Glenn Robinson, earlier this year,” said Kent J. George, managing member of Robinson & McElwee. “This gift ensures that Glenn’s legacy and commitment to excellence in the legal profession will live on in future generations of lawyers. It is a fitting tribute to a distinguished attorney.”

WVU Law receives $1.3 million gift for scholarships

The College of Law has received a $1.3 million gift from a trust established by former Secretary of Defense Louis Arthur Johnson. The gift creates the Louis A. Johnson Scholarship Fund at the law school. 

Col. Johnson, who passed away in 1966, was a leading figure in the presidential administrations of Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman. Born in 1891 in Roanoke, Va., Johnson received his law degree from the University of Virginia. He began his legal career in Clarksburg, forming a partnership with Phillip Steptoe and John Rixey. After Rixey’s departure in 1916, the firm became known as Steptoe and Johnson.

Johnson was a member of the West Virginia House of Delegates and served in World War I, seeing action in France. Following the war, he became involved in veteran affairs and helped found the American Legion. He rose to the rank of Colonel in the Army Reserve in the 1920s.

Serving as the assistant secretary of war for Franklin Roosevelt from 1937-40, Johnson advocated rearmament and the expansion of military aviation in the years leading up to World War II. His tenure as Harry Truman’s secretary of defense from 1949-50 was marked by the so-called Revolt of the Admirals, the founding of NATO, and the beginning of the Korean War.

“After decades of service to his country, Colonel Johnson had the foresight to establish a trust in 1960 that would benefit legal education,” said attorney Robert M. Steptoe, Jr. “His legacy will now live on in the future graduates of the WVU College of Law and the important work they will do throughout their careers.”

“We are deeply grateful for this gift from the Johnson Trust and privileged to use it in a way that memorializes such a distinguished lawyer and leader,” said Joyce McConnell, dean of the College of Law.

After leaving the Roosevelt administration, Col. Johnson opened the Washington, D.C. office of Steptoe & Johnson in 1945. In 1980, the Washington and West Virginia offices separated amicably, creating Clarksburg-based Steptoe & Johnson and Washington, D.C. Steptoe & Johnson, Chartered, which both continue to operate today.

The Johnson gift to the WVU College of Law is part of A State of Minds: The Campaign for West Virginia’s University, a $750 million fundraising effort the WVU Foundation is conducting on behalf of the University.


WVU Law Conference to Focus on Business and Human Rights

MORGANTOWN, W.VA. — An upcoming conference hosted by the West Virginia University College of Law will explore key issues in the growing field of business and human rights.

The conference, which is supported by the United Nations Working Group on Business and Human Rights, will offer an in-depth examination of the issues and highlight advances in the field with leading experts from around the world.

Business and Human Rights: Moving Forward, Looking Back will be held in The Erickson Alumni Center at Statler Wilson Commons on September 23 and 24. Admission is free and the public is invited to attend. Registration on the conference website required.

Bill Richardson, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, will close the first day of the conference with remarks at 7:30 p.m. on September 23. He is speaking at WVU as part of the annual David C. Hardesty Jr. Festival of Ideas. Admission is free and open to the public.

“As the global economy becomes increasingly interconnected, there’s a vital need to establish a balance between businesses and basic human rights,” said Jena Martin, WVU Associate Professor of Law. “This conference will explore the roles that corporations and civil society should play in ensuring and advancing the cause of human rights.”

Cambridge University Press has announced its interest in publishing papers developed at the conference in an edited volume, subject to peer review.

Roger D. Branigin, the Executive Director of the Global Corporate Community of Practice for Business & Human Rights, is facilitating the first day of the conference. Featured speakers include Dr. Michael Addo, a member of the United Nations Working Group on Business and Human Rights; Larry Catà Backer of Penn State Dickinson School of Law; Faith Stevelman of the University of Washington School of Law; and Karen Bravo of the Robert H. McKinney School of Law at Indiana University. 

At least two dozen panelists are participating in the conference. These include Atabong Tamo from the Universiteit Antwerpen (Belgium), Humberto Cantú Rivera of the Université Panthéon-Assas Paris II (France), and Nwamaka Okany of the Amsterdam Center for International Law (The Netherlands).

A conference session at 9:30 a.m. on September 23 will specifically spotlight West Virginia business and human rights issues. Other session topics will focus on the history and relationship of business and human rights, due diligence, and identifying risks and impacts.

“For many countries and businesses, the discussion has only just begun even though this is a topic that effects every producer, consumer, and worker on the planet,” said Martin.


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