September 12, 2017

The Columbus School of Law at The Catholic University of America has recently received gifts and commitments totaling $1.4 million that will provide initial funding for three new initiatives supporting research and educational opportunities for faculty and students.

“We are very appreciative of the support we have received for these programs,” said law school Dean Daniel F. Attridge. “We’ve selected three initiatives that we think are very consistent with our strengths — our location here in Washington, D.C., our mission as part of The Catholic University of America, and the expertise of our faculty.”

Among the new initiatives is an enhanced program in compliance, investigations, and corporate responsibility that was conceived by Professor Sarah Duggin. This program, which is expected to launch in spring 2018, will be a direct response to a growing business demand. In recent years, the field of compliance has become critical in the business world. Though compliance issues are independent from corporate legal departments, those who work in the field still require specific legal knowledge and expertise.

According to numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are presently 257,000 compliance positions in the United States, with more growth expected in the coming years. This area of expansion for the law school will include enhanced curricular offerings, allowing students to gain much-needed experience and expertise in this expanding field.

“As Pope Francis has said, business, finance, the economy — work in these areas truly is a vocation. And it becomes a noble vocation when leaders in this field think about the moral and ethical aspects of what they do and embrace a culture of corporate integrity,” said Duggin. “Our overall goal is to create a center of national excellence where we can help provide the academic background for new thinking in compliance and corporate responsibility from a legal perspective.”

The second initiative will be the creation of a center for religious liberty led by Professor Mark Rienzi. Already known as a stalwart in the defense of religious liberty and freedom of expression through his work with the Becket Fund, Rienzi has represented clients in some of the most high-profile cases related to the freedom of religious expression. This center will build upon the Catholic Church’s fundamental belief in religious freedom for all people, while attracting high-caliber legal scholars to the school and expanding the body of research available.

“The goal of the program of religious liberty is really to present an authentic Catholic voice talking about the importance of religious liberty,” Rienzi said. “Creating a center where we’ll build up scholarship about the importance of religious liberty and making sure the government leaves room for religious freedom and diversity is a really important thing to do at this time.”

The final initiative to be funded is the criminal justice pilot program. This program, which will be led by Professor Cara Drinan beginning in fall 2018, is designed to document the lack of effective representation for poor criminal defendants in the United States. While everyone accused of a crime is entitled to a lawyer under well-established Supreme Court precedent, too often defendants who can’t afford to pay legal fees are left with poorly prepared and ineffective counsel. This pilot program will involve field work and research regarding public defenders — looking specifically at their caseloads, training procedures, and accountability mechanisms — in order to take an accurate assessment of the problem nationwide.

Drinan states: “Not only does this project afford the law school a chance to serve the most vulnerable members of society, but it addresses on a larger scale the Church’s call for us to exercise a preferential option for the poor and to meet the needs of those who have been marginalized.”

To learn more about these initiatives, please visit

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