March 18, 2009
Federal Public Defender Steven T. Wax to Deliver 2009 Commencement Address
Oregon Law is pleased to announce that Steven T. Wax, currently serving his seventh term as the federal public defender for the District of Oregon, will deliver the keynote address at the school’s 2009 commencement exercises.
Mr. Wax’s resume includes taking part in the Brooklyn, New York, district attorney’s prosecution of David Berkowitz, also known as “The Son of Sam.” As federal public defender, Wax represented Portland lawyer Brandon Mayfield, who was wrongfully accused of playing a role in the 2004 Madrid, Spain, train bombings, due to a misidentified fingerprint. Mayfield’s case resulted in a rare public apology by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Mr. Wax also has represented several alleged enemy combatants who were being held in the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
In 2008, Mr. Wax published “Kafka Comes to America: Fighting for Justice in the War on Terror.” The memoir documents Wax’s experiences defending Mayfield as well as Adel Hassan Hamad, a Sudanese charity worker who was held at Guantanamo Bay for five years without evidence of terrorist ties.
In a May 30, 2008, Seattle Times book review of “Kafka Comes to America,” author Bruce Ramsey states,
“The book is a story of a persistent defender who refuses to accept ‘no’ as a final answer. As Wax tells the tale, Hamad comes into focus as a human being with a past and a family. So does Wax, a former New Yorker whose Jewish grandfather had fled persecution under Czar Nicholas II.
When asked why a Jew would go to so much trouble to defend a Muslim accused of terrorism, Wax says, ‘I am defending a principle that protects all of us, the rule of law that keeps us safe.’”
Mr. Wax is a cum laude graduate of Colgate University and Harvard Law School. He has taught at the Northwestern School of Law at Lewis and Clark College, serves as an ethics prosecutor for the Oregon State Bar, and lectures throughout the country.
Oregon Law’s 2009 commencement exercises will take place at 1:00 p.m. Saturday, May 16, at the Hult Center for the Performing Arts, located at 7th Avenue and Willamette Street in Eugene. A reception will follow at The Club at Autzen Stadium, located at 2727 Leo Harris Parkway in Eugene.
For more information on this year’s commencement exercises, please visit the Oregon Law Commencement Web page.