Lays out pathway from legal practice to politics
From environmental lawyer to congressman—Representative Scott Peters (D-San Diego) shared his story with students at California Western School of Law on January 21. The event was sponsored by the student chapter of the American Constitution Society.
Peters said his experience as an environmental lawyer helped him become the first Democrat to be elected to the San Diego City Council in his politically conservative district because, as he said, “Republicans surf too,” and they wanted to elect an environmentalist to help clean up the beaches from a series of sewage spills.
Legal skills have been a major asset to Peters as a congressman.
“The legal skills have been really important in how I handle the job in a couple of ways, Peters said. “A lot of techniques you learn as a trial lawyer are really helpful, both in campaigning and running for office, and in how you manage your office and get legislation passed. I run my offices a lot like a law firm—hiring people who can solve problems like they teach you right here.”
Peters adds that courtroom experience can translate into how you communicate with voters. “Voters are very much like a jury,” Peters told the students. “Here are the facts, here is the case. The legal skills are tremendously helpful.”
However, he cautions that you can’t sound like a lawyer when you are talking to voters.
“You speak like you’re talking to your mom or to your 8th grader,” said Peters.
Speaking frankly, Peters laid out his positions on the issues most important to him in Congress.
“On Civil rights, there is no compromise,” Peters said. “You just need to need to win those battles.”
Another cause Peters is fighting for is to reverse the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision to “take the money out of politics.”
He is working on solutions to Climate change, which he says tends to be a very partisan issue.
“In terms of the economic issue, I’m looking to work with the Republicans to get the economy going so people can get back to work,” Peters said.
Peter’s presentation was followed by a wide-ranging question and answer period that covered topics like defense spending, Iran’s nuclear program, and his advice for law students who are interested in public service.
“Find ways to engage in the community,” Peters said in answer to the question about advice for law students. “Do a lot of listening to find out what’s on people’s minds. Start to engage.”
“I really like the fact that he tried to answer everyone’s questions,” said 1L Thomas Feerick. “His answered showed he really connects with his constituency rather most Congressmen. He cares about what the students—especially the younger generation students.”
“I felt like he really responded well to the questions,” said 2L Casey Lowe. “I thought he gave some thoughtful answers, and he was very sincere, which you don’t really expect from politicians these days.”
“A lot of Democrats still are afraid to embrace civil rights issues. I’m pleased to hear that he’s very forthcoming about that,” said 3L Leah Reeves. “He’s also cognizant about financial issues on which a lot of Democrats tend to be less in tune.”
California Western students in the American Constitution Society and other student organizations are committed to using the law to solve problems. The ACS’s goal is to strengthen the values of respect for human dignity, protection of individual rights and liberties, and access to justice for everyone.