If we want to be sure that our time here has meant something, we must ensure that we have handed off to those coming behind us a commitment – and a passion – to work for the best world possible. For me, this means inspiring young lawyers to understand the exquisite opportunity our profession offers to serve our world while serving our clients and ourselves.
For Dean JoAnne A. Epps, the essence of Temple Law School is as a place where young lawyers are taught, trained, nurtured, and inspired to become the next generation of leaders in their profession and in their world. It is a vision shaped by almost 30 years of teaching law at Temple, and rooted in her service before that as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Philadelphia and Deputy City Attorney in Los Angeles. At its core are the values that for Epps define the legal profession: service, integrity, and passion.
As Dean of Temple Law School, a position she has held since 2008, Epps has been an outspoken advocate for legal education that emphasizes institutional responsiveness over a one-size-fits-all curricular model. National Jurist Magazine named her among the 25 most influential people in legal education for 2013, citing her leadership in implementing this approach at Temple. Her commitment to curricular innovation and experiential legal education has garnered Temple significant praise, in particular for its innovative first-year experiential courses and nationally recognized clinical opportunities. It also inspired the creation of the Stephen and Sandra Sheller Center for Social Justice at Temple Law School, which will introduce students to the many roles that lawyers can play in securing access to civil justice.
Dean Epps’ professional leadership and influence extend far beyond Temple Law School. Long a champion for women and minorities within the profession, she has been awarded the 2014 Justice Sonia Sotomayor Diversity Award by the Philadelphia Bar Association and is a three-time honoree by Lawyers of Color Magazine as one of the 100 most influential black lawyers in the country. Epps is a member of the Consortium for Women’s Leadership, based at the Center for Women in the Law at the University of Texas School of Law, a member of the Board of the National Association of Women Lawyers Foundation, and is active in both the American Law Institute and AALS. She has recently completed longstanding service in several roles in the American Bar Association as well: as a member of the ABA Standing Committee on Constitution and Bylaws, the Standing Committee on Continuing Legal Education, the ABA Presidential Commission on the Impact of the Economic Crisis on the Legal Profession and Legal Needs, both the ABA Nominating Committee and the Steering Committee of the Nominating Committee, and most significantly 11 years as an officer of the American Bar Association Section of Litigation. She was a member of the Advisory Committee to the ALI-ABA Program Committee from 1996-2006. In 2009, the Philadelphia Bar Association recognized these efforts and more by honoring Dean Epps with the Sandra Day O’Connor Award, conferred annually on “a woman attorney who has demonstrated superior legal talent, achieved significant legal accomplishments and has furthered the advancement of women in both the profession and the community.”
Epps’ passion and integrity have earned her respect as a community leader as well. In 2011, she was appointed by the United States District Court to serve as monitor of the City of Philadelphia’s compliance with the settlement of Bailey v. City of Philadelphia, litigation challenging the City’s stop-and-frisk procedures. She has been a member of the Board of Directors of the Defender Association of Philadelphia since 1991, and from 1999 to 2006 served as Board President. In 2001, Dean Epps was appointed by Philadelphia Mayor John Street to serve as Chair of the Mayor's Task Force on Police Discipline. She has served as a member of the Pennsylvania Judicial Independence Commission, a member of the Philadelphia Bar Association's Committee to Promote Fairness in the Judiciary, and as a member of the Pennsylvania Commission for Justice Initiatives. In 2009, Dean Epps became a member of the Advisory Council for the Pennsylvania Prison Society; she also sits on the Advisory Board of the Public Interest Law Center. She became an officer of the Pennsylvania Women’s Forum in 2010 and in 2013 became the President of that organization. She has been a member of the Board of Directors for the Committee of Seventy since 2010 and a member of the Salvation Army of Greater Philadelphia Advisory Board since 2012. In 2012, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett named Epps a Distinguished Daughter of Pennsylvania for these and other significant contributions to the Commonwealth.
Dean Epps is a gifted teacher, and brings that gift to the classroom each fall when she teaches Litigation Basics to the first year students. Aside from that course, her primary teaching areas include Criminal Procedure, Evidence and Trial Advocacy. Like many gifted teachers, Dean Epps has not limited her teaching to the law school. Rather, her passion for both law and teaching has carried her around the globe, teaching advocacy skills and promoting the rule of law in a variety of international arenas. She has taught advocacy skills to prosecutors at the United Nation's ICTR (International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda) in Arusha, Tanzania. Dean Epps has also taught courses in Beijing, China to Chinese lawyers enrolled in Temple's LL.M. program and to lawyers from the Beijing Supreme People's Procuratorate (the Chinese Prosecutor's Office). In anticipation of the 2009 re-institution of jury trials in criminal cases in Japan, along with Temple Law School Professor Edward Ohlbaum, Dean Epps taught Jury Trial Advocacy to 20,000+ members of the Japanese Bar Association. And Dean Epps was the only academic member of a nine-person American team which provided training to Sudanese lawyers representing victims of the Darfur crisis. The training included substantive International Criminal Law, with a special focus on practice before the International Criminal Court, as well as Evidence and Advocacy. Each of these pursuits has been grounded in Epps’ firm belief that the rule of law is one of the best tools at our disposal for establishing peaceful, just societies and for relieving human suffering.
A native of Cheltenham, PA, Dean Epps received her B.A. from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut in 1973 and is a 1976 graduate of Yale Law School. She lives with her husband in New Jersey.
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