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Public Statements

Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, 2015

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. CASEY. Madam President, as I have every year since 2007, I rise today to commemorate Black History Month. This year we are privileged to recognize Dean JoAnne A. Epps, the dean of Temple University's Beasley School of Law. Dean Epps is a woman who has made significant contributions to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the Nation by promoting opportunity and diversity throughout our legal institutions. JoAnne's life and career have been a testament to hard work and following her dreams. Her achievements are substantial, and she has worked to inspire others to fulfill their dreams, while advancing the cause of social justice to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to reach their full potential.

Today I am proud to honor JoAnne Epps as a leader in law and education and highlight some of the ways in which she has demonstrated the power of dreams by opening doors of opportunity for women and minorities throughout her career.

JoAnne Epps's story serves as an example of where our dreams can take us. She is a native of Cheltenham, PA. For those who don't know the geography of our State, it is in the southeastern corner of our State in Montgomery County. She attended Trinity College in Connecticut. As an undergraduate JoAnne planned to follow in her mother's footsteps and become a legal secretary; however, she distinguished herself throughout her undergraduate career, and her mother and professors encouraged her to dream big. She applied to and was accepted by Yale Law School, where she was one of 40 women and just 10 African Americans in her class of 150. JoAnne entered law school having never known an adult attorney and often experienced discomfort that her background differed so significantly from those of many of her classmates. Despite these challenges, JoAnne Epps remained focused on the opportunities ahead of her.

Following graduation in 1976, JoAnne devoted herself to public service, becoming a deputy city attorney for the city of Los Angeles, CA, and ultimately returning to Pennsylvania as an assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

After that work as a prosecutor, in 1985 she joined the faculty of the Beasley School of Law at Temple University, utilizing the experience she had gained as a prosecutor to instruct students on criminal procedure, evidence, and trial advocacy. Exhibiting strong leadership qualities and a gift for teaching, JoAnne was soon named associate dean of academic affairs, and in 2008 was named dean of Temple Law School.

As dean, JoAnne has worked tirelessly not only to advance the quality of legal education but to instill in students the values she believes define the legal profession. They are service, integrity, and passion. JoAnne has expanded opportunities for students at Temple to apply these values to a legal career by implementing programs that focus on hands-on legal experience, both through high-quality clinical programs and through an innovative experiential first-year course as curriculum. This work has led to the creation of the Stephen and Sandra Sheller Center for Social Justice at Temple Law School, and we are honored today to have both Steve and Sandy Sheller with us.

The Sheller Center encourages early community involvement and a commitment to social justice in Temple Law students by facilitating collaboration with community groups, the university community, and the Philadelphia and Pennsylvania legal communities to improve access to justice for underserved communities.

It is a truly inspiring project. Even as JoAnne innovates at a schoolwide level, she has not lost her dedication to the individual connections fostered through teaching. She continues to share her experience and insight with first-year law students by teaching a course in litigation basics each fall.

JoAnne has employed her talent for teaching not only to the benefit of Temple University and the Pennsylvania legal community but to further social justice objectives on an international scale. JoAnne has been an advocacy instructor for attorneys at the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and the Beijing Supreme People's Procuratorate. In 2007 and 2008, she worked with a small group of lawyers to provide training for Sudanese lawyers representing victims of the crisis in Darfur on evidence, advocacy, and substantive international criminal law with a focus on practice before the International Criminal Court.

JoAnne's service and impact on Temple Law School is made all the more impressive in light of the myriad of other roles she has taken on to advance the causes of social justice through legal institutions. In 2001, JoAnne was appointed by the mayor of Philadelphia to chair the Mayor's Task Force on Police Discipline, and in 2011 she was appointed by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania to monitor the city of Philadelphia's compliance with a settlement concerning stop-and-frisk procedures. She has a long history of service on various commissions designed to increase access to justice, including the Philadelphia Bar Association's Committee to Promote Justice, the board of directors of the Defender Association of Philadelphia, the advisory board of the Public Interest Law Center, the Pennsylvania Commission for Justice Initiatives, and too many others to name today.

In recognition of this work, in 2003 Temple Law School presented her with the Gideon Award, given to acknowledge dedication to the cause of justice.

JoAnne Epps has had a great career and has had great success as a lawyer, as a teacher, as an advocate, and as a prosecutor despite the challenges of being an African-American woman entering a field that is predominantly white and male. She consistently worked to open the doors of opportunities to women and minorities who face similar challenges. At Temple, JoAnne served as a member of the Women's Studies Program Steering Committee, and she remains an affiliated member of the Women's Studies Department at the law school. She has also previously served as an adviser to both the Women's Law Caucus and the Black Law Students Association.

Outside of Temple Law, JoAnne served as vice chair of the Pennsylvania Gender Task Force and as a member of the Third Circuit Task Force on Equal Treatment in the Courts, also serving on the Third Circuit task force commission on race and ethnicity.

JoAnne testified on behalf of the National Association of Women Lawyers at the confirmation hearing of Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. In 2014, she was awarded the Justice Sotomayor Diversity Award by the Philadelphia Bar Association in recognition of her work on behalf of women and minorities in the legal profession.

JoAnne has said the following about her legal career, and I am quoting:

I spent much of my career not seeing ahead of me someone who was at all like me, and I've had to make my way without that. I want to be a resource for young people entering the profession that I never had.

Joanne's dedication to both legal education and the legal profession has helped empower countless young attorneys to exceed expectations and fulfill their dreams.

JoAnne Epps is here today in the gallery of the Senate, and as the rules tell us, we are not allowed to acknowledge those in the gallery. I am saying that for my friend. But she is joined by family and friends, and I am going to go through a list here. If I miss someone, someone will tell me later.

Starting with her husband L. Harrison Jay, her uncle Harold Ashton, and her cousins Eric Ashton, Joan and Tommie Frye, Donnie, Debbie, Adrienne, and Christopher Jackson, and Marcia and Glenn Yarbrough--I will hear if I missed someone a little later, but we are honored she is here with us. We are honored her family is here on this special day. Today we honor JoAnne Epps, the dean of Temple Law School, for her significant work to advance access to justice and for inspiring and empowering new generations of attorneys to emulate their commitment to service, integrity, and passion.

I yield the floor.

I suggest the absence of a quorum.


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