Rindskopf Parker was a 27-year-old
who had practiced law for just two years when the U.S. Supreme
Court agreed to hear a petition for certiorari that she
filed on behalf of a rural Georgia minister.
her petition, Parker asked the Court to declare unconstitutional
a Georgia law that suspended the license of any uninsured
driver who had been in an accident, without any determination
of fault, if the driver could not post a bond or cash in
an exorbitant amount. Parker contended that the law violated
procedural due process.
who recently became dean of the McGeorge School of Law,
recalls that she was more terrified than thrilled when the
Supreme Court agreed to hear the case.
was not a natural litigator," Parker said in an interview
at her McGeorge office. "I didn't speak in public.
I never spoke in class. This was traumatic. And I remember
kind of saying, 'I'll make a deal with the Lord. I'll do
this one case and then I'll never argue again. I'll stop
being a lawyer.'"
conquered her fears and argued the case. A unanimous Supreme
Court ruled in the minister's favor in Bell v. Burson,
402 U.S. 535 (1971), declaring the law unconstitutional.
However, if Parker made a deal to quit the law, she reneged
on her part of the bargain. Instead of leaving the profession,
the experience taught her an important lesson that she likes
to share with law students - you can exceed your own expectations
when pushed to your limits.
three decades since Bell, Parker has not shied away from
tackling extraordinary challenges. After spending a decade
as a civil rights litigator (including a second, successful
appearance before the Supreme Court), Parker has had a diverse
and distinguished career in both government and private
practice. Most recently the general counsel for the University
of Wisconsin, Parker has also served as general counsel
for the CIA and the National Security Agency and as the
State Department's principal deputy legal adviser. These
experiences have made her one of the nation's leading experts
on the law regarding national security and terrorism at
a time when those issues are Topic A on the national agenda.
Parker faces a new challenge. As dean, she hopes to raise
McGeorge's profile from its position as a well-respected
regional law school to an institution receiving national
and international recognition.
faculty and alumni are hoping that the selection of Parker,
a somewhat unconventional choice for a law school deanship
because of her lack of extensive academic experience, will
pay off for the school in terms of heightened visibility
new dean "has a very rich and varied background in
terms of practice, her managerial abilities, and her demonstrated
judgment," said Professor Brian Landsberg, McGeorge's
Associate Dean for Academic Affairs. "Beyond that,
she brings a lot of energy, she brings a very public face
- somebody who will get the message out to the wider (legal)
community about McGeorge."
of Appeal Justice Connie Callahan, vice president
of McGeorge's alumni board, predicted that Parker's strong
interpersonal skills and national and international standing
will help McGeorge in attracting faculty and in strengthening
its relations with alumni.
become an extreme fan of hers,"Justice Callahan said.
"I think she is excellent for McGeorge. She has the
international and national stature. Her expertise in national
security and international law brings a lot to McGeorge."
time will tell whether Parker, who officially began her
duties on July 1st, can satisfy the hopes of the McGeorge
community, consideration of how she has handled past challenges,
both personal and professional, makes anything seem possible.
growing up in Michigan and getting her philosophy degree
from the University of Michigan, Parker entered Michigan's
law school in 1965, one of nine women in a class of 360.
"It was a little like having made the wrong turn and
ending up in the boys' locker room," she said. "You
were clearly not a welcome participant."
event occurred in law school when Parker heard a presentation
from the Law Students Civil Rights Research Council. The
fund was seeking students willing to go to the South for
the summer to do civil rights work for $35 per week.
summer program introduced Parker to a group of law students
from East Coast schools who were quite different from her
Michigan classmates. While most Michigan law students were
focused on future careers in the business world, the students
Parker worked with that summer were committed to use the
law to aid the burgeoning civil rights movement. Almost
immediately, Parker met Peter Rindskopf, a talented
Yale student who was to become her first husband. "It
was love at first sight," she recalled.
her remaining time in law school, Parker shuttled between
Ann Arbor and New Haven. Upon graduation, Peter took a position
as a cooperating counsel in Atlanta for the NAACP Legal
Defense and Education Fund, Inc., sometimes referred to
as the "Inc. Fund." Elizabeth joined a legal services
organization affiliated with Emory University.
young couple soon began to make their mark in the civil
rights movement. During the same month that the Supreme
Court heard Bell v. Burson, Peter argued his own
case before the High Court, Jenness v. Fortson, 403
U.S. 431 (1971). While the Elizabeth prevailed in her action,
the Supreme Court rejected Peter's constitutional challenge
to Georgia's elections code.
struck six months after the Bell victory. Peter Rindskopf
was killed in a freak automobile accident. He was only 29
years old. Besides his wife, Peter left a nine-month old
professional response to the tragedy was to ask Jack
Greenberg, the legendary leader of the Inc. Fund, if
she could take over her husband's cases. Greenberg agreed,
and Parker assumed her late husband's caseload of more than
100 federal cases, including a free speech case in which
cert. had already been granted. She argued that case, successfully,
in December 1971, two months after her husband's death.
Parker spent a decade doing civil rights work. She reached
another turning point in 1978. She accepted an offer to
join the Federal Trade Commission's legal staff. After several
years at the FTC doing antitrust work, Parker joined Surrey
& Morse, an international law firm.
spent three years at Surrey & Morse (which later
merged into Washington, D.C. powerhouse firm, Jones,
Day, Reavis, & Pogue), mainly doing international
commercial arbitrations, until a friend from the FTC who
had become general counsel at the National Security Agency
suggested that she succeed him as general counsel of NSA.
NSA, the government's secret agency responsible for gathering
signals intelligence, was Parker's first foray into the
world of intelligence. Parker worked at the NSA from 1984
to 1989 before joining the State Department as principal
deputy legal adviser. After one year at the State Department,
CIA Director William Webster asked her to become
the CIA's first female general counsel in 1990.
was general counsel of the CIA for five years until an incoming
CIA director, John Deutch, selected his own general
counsel in 1995. During her tenure at the CIA, Parker helped
the agency handle the prosecution of former CIA agent Aldrich
Ames for spying. Parker also co-wrote a highly-regarded
May 1995 report with U.S. Deputy Attorney General Mark
Richard, on the subject of improving the relationship
between the United States' law enforcement and intelligence-gathering
communities. The Richard-Rindskopf report contained 23 recommendations
for improving the relations between the two communities.
leaving the CIA, Parker took a counsel position at the Washington,
D.C. firm Bryan Cave LLP, where she focused on counseling
clients on public policy and international trade issues,
particularly in the areas of encryption and advanced technology.
In 1999, Parker left Bryan Cave to become general counsel
for the University of Wisconsin System.
leaving the CIA, Parker has continued to be involved in
organizations engaged in the discussion of national security
issues. Parker is the former chair and remains a member
of the American Bar Association's standing committee on
law and national security, and is currently a member of
the ABA president's task force on the laws against terrorism.
In January 2002, Parker joined the National Academy of Science's
study group, "Responses to Terrorism," and helped
the academy devise its research agenda in the aftermath
of the September 11th attacks.
years ago, Parker ran into Robert Parker, whom she
had dated as an undergraduate, at a friend's wedding in
San Francisco. The two had not been in contact with each
other since Elizabeth had declined Robert's collect call
in 1966. Elizabeth and Robert Parker were married four years
Robert Parker and the dean's daughter, Amy Rindskopf,
a lawyer in Boston, describe the dean as someone who loves
the practice of law and loves contact with people.
jobs that have made her happy are those that go to her strengths,"
Amy Rindskopf said. "Her strengths are working with
people. . . .She is thrilled to be at McGeorge because it
plays well to all of her strengths."
the Parkers have moved into a university-owned house across
the street from campus. Although the Parkers, who have never
previously lived in California, are just settling in to
Sacramento, the dean has been maintaining a whirlwind travel
schedule. In late July, Parker checked out McGeorge's summer
institute in Salzburg, Austria featuring Supreme Court Justice
Anthony Kennedy. In September, Parker was scheduled
to give lectures at three law schools in China. Those speeches
were to be followed by a speech in October to the California
Judges Association. In between these engagements, Parker
has been meeting with McGeorge alumni across the state and
meeting with faculty.
doing a great job," said Professor Mike Vitiello.
"She's really out there trying to spread the word about
McGeorge. She's a true believer."
said she was attracted to McGeorge by the school's focus
on government law and policy, its international business
law program, and the commitment, collegiality, and vision
of its faculty. She hopes to spread the word about the school
to the national and international legal communities, where
McGeorge is not as well known as it could be.
have teased and said the reason I was selected for the deanship
was that my experience in intelligence has shown me how
to declassify a secret. This (law school) is a secret, and
I am going to declassify it."