IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Colorado Law professors aid in presidential transition
When the new presidential administration searched the country for experts to help with the transition into office, two University of Colorado at Boulder faculty members answered the call. Associate Professor Helen Norton and Professor Philip J. Weiser served on the recent Presidential Transition Project. While well-versed in distinct areas of law, both members of the CU-Boulder Law School faculty utilized previous experiences in Washington D.C. to help fulfill their duties. The transition group was composed of hundreds of people who worked to help establish priorities, recognize challenges and lay out the agenda for President Barack Obama and his staff.
Associate Professor Helen Norton
Norton served as a lead for the Justice and Civil Rights Agency Review Team. She led the six-person transition team charged with reviewing the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the nation’s largest civil rights enforcement agency. “The presidential transition – watching a government change hands and turn on a dime – is a fascinating exercise in democracy,” Norton said. “A peaceful transition of power between different parties is the true mark of a thriving democracy.”
Norton said that advance planning enabled the teams to "really hit the ground running." The teams began working promptly following Election Day in order to complete most of the work by the New Year. The EEOC transition team worked to identify critical opportunities and challenges for the federal agency, which enforces laws against employment discrimination.
“It was really a fun and exciting time. The experience was personally and professionally rewarding,” Norton said. “I was impressed by how well organized the whole endeavor was, and everyone was very dedicated to doing as quality a job as possible.”
Norton’s previous experience in Washington D.C. includes 15 years working in civil rights litigation and policy, a particular interest that stems from her desire to do public interest work, she said. She has served in various capacities, including a stint as Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Justice under the Clinton administration. “It’s always been important to me to do work that has meaning – meaningful to others as well as myself,” she said. “This practice certainly serves those aims.”
Now a teacher of constitutional law and employment discrimination law at CU, Norton said the position is a great way to continue her work in a new arena. While she doesn’t anticipate moving back to the nation’s capital any time soon, Norton said CU and the law school’s investment in the life of the nation and in public service continue to excite her. “I hope to be involved in a number of ways as the years go on,” she said.
Professor Philip J. Weiser
As part of the Economics and International Trade Agency Review Team, Weiser, also associate dean for research at CU Law, helped lead a review of the Federal Trade Commission. Over the years, he has taught and written in the areas of competition policy and technology law, establishing himself as one of the nation's leading experts in these areas.
“There’s a huge amount of talented people who want to help this administration succeed, and the administration takes ideas very seriously,” Weiser said. “Our assignment was to talk to as many people within the FTC as possible, as well as people who had an interest in how the agency operated.”
The effort entailed speaking with more than 100 people in and around the agency in order to gather different ideas and perspectives. The group compiled a report to help the new administration better understand the critical issues, challenges and opportunities surrounding the FTC. “I was incredibly honored and flattered to be considered for this role,” Weiser said. “In my mind, it’s every academic’s dream to make an impact, and this was a great opportunity to do that.”
Weiser joined Colorado Law and CU’s Interdisciplinary Telecommunications Program in 1999. He has also served as executive director of the Silicon Flatirons Center for Law, Technology and Entrepreneurship. Last month, Weiser accepted an appointment as deputy assistant attorney general for international, policy and appellate matters at the U.S. Department of Justice's Antitrust Division. “The opportunity is so special that I felt I had to take it,” he said.
Weiser will return to the Justice Department to begin work in July overseeing policy development, he said. The professor said that his experiences in Washington D.C. and at CU have provided an exciting and fulfilling foundation for his continuing journey. “Colorado Law values engagement,” Weiser said. “And I’ve felt entirely supported throughout my intellectual journey at CU.”
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