I am very saddened to hear that beloved University of Denver Professor Ann Scales suffered an accident and was taken off life support last Friday, according to this article (thanks to Bridget Crawford for the pointer). On Monday evening the University of Denver held a candlelight vigil for her at 8 pm. I wish that I could have attended.
I have been a fan of Ann since my first year of law school when she spoke on a Myra Bradwell Day panel -- I only dimly recall the talk (we're pushing twenty-five years on the memory) but it's stuck in my mind as one of the most refreshing moments in first year, along with the fabulous courses in constitutional law, taught by (now Judge) Gerry Lynch, and property, taught by Eben Moglen. Ann spoke about her work on feminist jurisprudence and about making law practice (and scholarship) relevant to issues we believe in. (As I've been sitting here reading her scholarship, I see that she published a paper based on the Columbia talk, "Surviving Legal De-Education: An Outsider's Guide," in the Vermont Law Review in 1990. It's a wonderful read.) Her Legal Feminism: Activism, Lawyering, and Legal Theory is a wonderfully accessible volume. Ann told me that she wrote it so that federal judges could understand feminist legal thought and why it matters. In that she succeeded magnificently, as with everything she did. I have it on the coffeetable at home; I leave it there so visitors will think I'm sophisticated and cool.
The year I moved to Chapel Hill, Ann was visiting with us and I had the chance to get to know her substantially better -- as a remarkably perceptive reader and a fabulous teacher and an all-around fabulously energetic person. I always treasure meeting people in the academy who can read someone else's scholarship, take the work on the author's terms, and make offer a critique to make it substantially better. Those are Ann's talents exactly. And I also got to hear a little bit of Ann's family -- she's from Oklahoma, a place I have deep fondness for, and grew up in North Carolina. Her father was president of Oklahoma Baptist University and then, for nearly two decades (1967-83) of Wake Forest. Ann's descended, as I recall, from Alfred Moore Scales, who was governor of North Carolina after the Civil War. Just so happens when I was up in Reidsville -- to take a picture of the place where the Confederate statue had been (on Scales Street) -- I passed his mansion and so was thinking about her and how I needed to email her a couple weeks back.
Ann, her family and many friends, the University of Denver, and the entire feminist legal community are in my thoughts. Once I've had the chance to digest this sad news, I want to talk more about what Ann has meant to me and to the community of activist scholars.
Update as of June 24: I am sad to report that Ann passed away this morning. When I have my thoughts together I want to talk some more about Ann as a mentor and scholar.
I had forgotten, if I ever knew, that Ann made a cameo appearance or two in Scott Turow's One Law. She was what she calls "a disruptive influence" in the book. Ann commented about this and her very different idea about legal education from Turow's at the end of Surviving Legal De-Education. She asked readers to "Consider this description of [Turow's] first-year classmates: 'We are men and women drawn to the study of rules, people with a native taste for order.'" Ann's response to this -- and her conclusion to the article -- was:
Scott was right about some of us, but I believe that his version of law school is becoming obsolete. The day is comming soon when some right-minded successor to Scott Turow can write about her first-year classmates: We are women and men drawn to the living of life, people with a native taste for survival, for diversity, and for freedom.
Ann was a very good predictor of how law and law students were changing. And to the extent that we're now able to spend more time in law school working on other issues -- like freedom -- I think it is because of the leadership Ann and people like her.
Update as of June 26: Ann was so much more than her publications that I don't want to focus all my attention on them, but I do think you might enjoy this essay, "Disappearing Medusa: The Fate of Feminist Legal Theory," which appeared in the Harvard Women's Law Journal in 2004.