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Public Justice Foundation Director urges students to “fight for what you believe in”
October 19, 2012
DETROIT — “The single most important purpose of the law is to do justice,” said Arthur Bryant, executive director of legal powerhouse Public Justice and the Public Justice Foundation.
Bryant was the inaugural speaker for the Dean A. Robb Public Interest Lecture Series Oct. 16 at Wayne State University Law School. The series, intended to inspire law students, attorneys, public interest groups and everyday citizens to become more active in public service and public interest law, is sponsored by the Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights at Wayne Law, and honors Wayne Law alumnus Dean Robb, a noted civil rights attorney and social activist.
The generosity of Pitt McGehee Palmer Rivers & Golden PC has made the series possible. Wayne Law alumnus Michael Pitt is a managing partner of the firm and a board member of the Public Justice Foundation as well as a member of the Wayne Law Board of Visitors.
Robb and Pitt both were on hand at the inaugural lecture and spoke briefly before Bryant’s lecture.
Pitt said one of the core principles of his firm is to “to make this a better and more just society,” adding that the same principle has guided Robb in his 62 years as an award-winning trial lawyer.
“Dean had a hobby in law school,” Pitt said. “That hobby was to conduct sit-ins” to end racial segregation in the late 1940s.
Robb’s activities as a champion of civil rights even as a student drew the “attention of the FBI,” Pitt said.
He told the audience how the dean of the law school called Robb into his office and told the law student that “there is no future in law for radicals.”
“How wrong could a person be?” Pitt said with a laugh.
Robb, who grew up on a farm in Illinois, told the gathering that Wayne Law “was my birth place as far as what I’ve been able to do. Luckily, I found Detroit. My heart’s in Detroit.”
He spoke of his pride at having his name on a lecture series serving as “a conduit to expose law students” to public interest law, and talked about serving as Public Justice’s president in the 1980s and his role in hiring Bryant.
Considered one of the nation’s most influential public interest lawyers, Bryant talked about his career with Public Justice, a national public interest law firm, and of how the organization has grown. Public Justice takes on socially significant cases that few private firms have the resources to handle, and “holds corporate and government wrongdoers accountable.”
Bryant said Public Justice takes on “the cases that need to be brought whether or not they’ll make any money.”
During his years with Public Justice, Bryant has battled for workers’ civil rights, environmental protection and consumer rights, and established precedent-setting litigation on behalf of the public good. Public Justice, founded 30 years ago, will bring its fifth Supreme Court case next month.
“The core is fighting for what you believe in,” he said. “You have good times and hard times in every career, in every life. But the purpose of your life is what you give to it. The purpose is to have fun, to give love and get love back, and to make the world a better place.”
He urged law students to consider public interest law to make their own lives meaningful.
“You never know what you can do until you try,” Bryant said. “Spend your lives fighting for what you believe in.”
The Keith Center promotes civil rights educational opportunities and encourages research on racial justice issues, including housing segregation, inadequate and segregated education, and unequal economic opportunities, with a particular focus on southeastern Michigan. It also contributes to the development of the next generation of civil rights advocates by providing opportunities to work with leading civil rights organizations and providing scholarships to Wayne Law students interested in pursuing civil rights law.