WEB ONLY: Former fed judge speaks at Biola

Kenneth Starr, dean of Pepperdine University School Law and former U.S. federal judge, spoke Tuesday in Sutherland Hall.


Kenneth Starr lectures in Sutherland Hall Tuesday. Starr is well-known for spearheading political investigations into the scandal involving former President Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky in the 90s. – Photo by Lindsey Minerva.

Michael Farr and Kathryn Watson

The ability to amend the United States Constitution is one of the most powerful tools for the country’s citizens, said Kenneth Starr, dean of Pepperdine University School Law and former U.S. federal judge, while speaking Tuesday in Sutherland Hall.

Starr, well-known for his involvement in the Whitewater investigation during Bill Clinton’s presidency and his argumentation in favor of Proposition 8, opened with a discussion about Constitutional history. He later answered several questions from the audience. The event was sponsored by the history, government and social sciences departments.

“We have the authority and power that the founding generation gave to us to make changes… to make amendments,” Starr said of the Constitution. “It is in a constant state of the aspirations of the American people.”

Another theme of the lecture was learning to be a “peacemaker,” specifically as it relates to a law career. Starr commended the International Justice Mission, a human rights agency that legally represents victims of violent oppression in Asia, Africa and Latin America, according to its Web site. He encouraged students, regardless of their major, to be involved in such efforts.

“[With] the kind of skills training that facilitates that process of making peace, very good things can happen,” Starr said after the lecture. “What I think doesn’t work is lining up and saying ‘here is my view, and it’s my way or the highway.’ It’s just not very effective, it’s not very attractive. It’s certainly not very persuasive.”

Freshman Emily Woodroof, a humanities major hoping to attend law school, said Starr confirmed her belief that Christians not only can, but should, practice law.

“As Christians, that’s what can make us effective in the school of law, because we have integrity,” Woodroof said.

For freshman Robby Roach, a political science major who heard Starr’s name in the news long before the lecture, the lawyer’s exhortation to practice law with love and integrity was the highlight of the lecture.

“I take his words highly,” Roach said.

Born the son of a Church of Christ minister, Starr went on to earn degrees from George Washington University, Brown University and Duke University School of Law. Starr’s expertise in constitutional law eventually led to his handling of high-profile cases, including a total of 36 before the Supreme Court.

Starr has clerked for David W. Dyer of the U.S. Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit, and for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Warren E. Burger, according to the Office of the Solicitor General. Starr assumed the position of dean of Pepperdine University in 2004, and has been teaching law there ever since.

Starr, though a self-proclaimed Republican, has supported both the nomination of Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and upholding the validity of the estimated 180,000 same-sex marriages that took place between June and November of 2008 in California.

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