PINEVILLE, La. (BP)–Louisiana College has announced the creation of the Judge Paul Pressler School of Law, with classes slated to begin in the fall of 2009.
“I have been asked over and over again, ‘Why a law school?'” the college’s president, Joe Aguillard, said at an Aug. 16 news conference at the Pineville campus.
And: “Why a Christian law school?”
While Aguillard quoted such founding fathers of the nation as George Washington, John Adams and John Jay to answer the question, U.S. Rep. Rodney Alexander, R.-Quitman, La., underscored the need in practical terms.
Judiciary action is causing the Lord’s Prayer and the Ten Commandants to be removed from many of the nation’s schools “and in their place we are putting metal detectors –- to keep our children from killing each other,” Alexander said.
“‘Are we in trouble?’ one might ask,” Alexander said. “I fear the answer is yes. Thank you, Dr. Aguillard, for recognizing the need….”
To address judicial activism and the erosion of religious liberty, Aguillard said the Pressler School of Law will produce attorneys who will be Christian advocates in everyday life and practice as well as the realm of politics.
The initial cost of the law school, Aguillard said, would be $15-20 million, to be spread over four years, to include the hiring of faculty members, construction of a building and development of a law library.
In response to a question about how the project would be funded, Aguillard lifted his hands, palms up, and looked toward heaven.
“The Lord has put in place significant leaders and jurists and those that are positive and committed to this effort,” he said. “We have already begun communication with them.”
Aguillard said he was sure money would not hinder the law school’s establishment.
“I stand solidly on this statement,” Aguillard said, “[that] the money is forthcoming and this institution will look out across this campus one day and visualize, tangibly, this law school.”
In introducing Pressler, Aguillard cited the Texas jurist’s longtime career and his prominent role in Southern Baptist life among the reasons the law school is being named after him.
Pressler said he was overwhelmed with the honor. When he told a friend about it, Pressler said the friend replied, “But you’re not dead. They only do things like that for dead people.” Pressler said he was glad to be alive to enjoy the honor.
College officials projected the time line for the Judge Paul Pressler School of Law as:
— 2008-09 –- Employment of a dean, registrar and admissions personnel, setting of curriculum and beginning admissions of first-year cohort of students.
— 2009-10 -– Employ first-year law faculty and begin classes.
— 2010-11 -– Employ second-year law faculty and begin a second cohort of first-year students. The American Bar Association would conduct a site visit at this time for accreditation purposes.
— 2011-12 -– Employ third-year law faculty and begin classes with third student cohort. Graduate first class in May 2012.
The college projects cohorts of 100 students, although the first likely would be limited to around 40 students, Aguillard said.
The college plans to attain accreditation not only from the American Bar Association but also the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
The first ABA accreditation would be provisional as the law school works toward full accreditation. “Provisional” is the highest level of accreditation given to any school seeking accreditation in its first five years, Aguillard said.
While the requirements for admission and cost for the law school have not been set, Aguillard said the cost of admission would be competitive with the state average of $21,000 for tuition.
The law school already has initiated some media announcements and has received queries about admission, Aguillard said, noting that the school expects to draw not only from its own pre-law students but also from across the state and nation.
Mike Johnson, former chairman of the college’s board of trustees and a Pineville attorney, said the idea for a law school dates back to 1999 but the college’s current administration has moved it toward being more than a concept.
During a time for questions, Sue Tudor Miller, who has a long history with college, stood and indicated that she wanted to speak on behalf of its founding fathers.
“Visions [for a college] tend to perish,” Miller said. “I am so excited about the fresh vision for the college’s next 100 years.”
Pressler, a Houston native, graduated cum laude from Princeton University in 1952 and, following graduation, was commissioned in the U.S. Navy, completing active duty as a lieutenant. He earned his jurisprudence degree from the University of Texas Law School in 1957 and while in law school was elected to the Texas legislature representing Harris County (Houston) from 1957-59.
He was appointed judge of the 133rd Judicial District Court by Gov. Preston Smith in 1970 followed in 1978 by an appointment as justice of the Court of Appeals of Texas, 14th Supreme Judicial Court, by Gov. Dolph Briscoe. He is now retired from the court system.
Pressler was one of the leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention’s conservative resurgence that began in late 1970s, and he has served in various positions within the SBC, such as a member of the SBC Executive Committee and trustee of the International Mission Board. His 1999 book, “A Hill on Which to Die,” is an autobiographical history of the conservative resurgence.
Pressler and his wife Nancy have three children and seven grandchildren.
Kelly Boggs is editor of the Baptist Message, newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.