A message from the dean: Remembering January 6

Dear UW Law Community:

One year ago today, I was teaching Federal Courts—a class about constitutional crises—when the riots at the Capitol caused just such a crisis. I’m sure my reaction was shared by many of you. I was stunned as mobs breached the U.S. Capitol, disrupting the lawful certification of our election results and threatening the safety of our representatives, senators and countless others.

It was frightening to watch this attack on our democracy, believed by many to be the most significant assault on our seat of government since the War of 1812. As we approach Martin Luther King Jr Day, the stark contrast between the riots and the non-violent civil rights protests Dr. King led continues to be extraordinarily striking.

Those attempts to undermine the peaceful transfer of power reinforce the importance of our mission as a law school. Last year, lawyers and judges played a pivotal role in the defense of our electoral process. We could see the rule of law in action, though it was under enormous strain. Facts matter. Evidence matters. Our shared commitment to truth-seeking and integrity matters. Thank you for your determination to carry these principles forward despite setbacks and opposition.

I recognize that this anniversary may be painful, especially amid the ongoing uncertainties of the pandemic. Please check in on your friends, family and colleagues. We are also here to support you:

Personally, I have found comfort in rewatching Amanda Gorman perform her inauguration poem, “The Hill We Climb,” in which — only two weeks after the insurrection — she showed us the best our country has to offer. In Gorman’s words, “being American is more than a pride we inherit. It’s the past we step into and how we repair it.”


Elizabeth Porter
Interim Toni Rembe Dean and Professor of Law
University of Washington School of Law