Carrie Leonetti is a graduate of Harvard Law School, where she demonstrated a commitment to public service as a member of the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau and an editor of the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review. Professor Leonetti gained international experience, working with victims of South Africa's apartheid regime at the University of Cape Town Legal Aid Clinic.
Prior to joining the faculty, Professor Leonetti was a federal public defender in Fresno, California and served on the American Bar Association's Task Force on Biological Evidence. She has more than seven years of experience in trial, appellate, and post-conviction work in criminal law.
Below is a Q&A with Professor Leonetti on what she enjoys about her life as a legal educator.
Q: What inspired you to become a legal educator?
A: I did a lot of habeas corpus work when I was an Assistant Federal Defender, which primarily involved litigating post-conviction claims of either ineffective assistance of defense counsel or prosecutorial misconduct. In those cases, it was often very clear that my clients’ previous attorneys had done a terrible job of representation or that the prosecutors had committed misconduct. The big issue instead was usually whether there was any legal remedy, years later, for the person in prison as a result. Eventually, it occurred to me that maybe my time would be better spent trying to educate future prosecutors and defense attorneys on the front end than to spend my life trying to repair a broken criminal-justice system on the back one.
Q: If you did not work as a legal educator, what other profession would you choose?
A: Something culinary – I would open a restaurant, be a vintner, or maybe raise goats and make artisanal cheeses.
Q: What do you enjoy most about teaching law?
A: Watching individual students develop over time, in classes, over the course of their legal education, in clinics and externships, and especially after graduation. It is always gratifying to get a phone call or an e-mail from a former student who is really excited about landing a dream job or just came back from court having argued a motion about something that we discussed in class.
Q: What is your personal mission statement in the classroom?
A: I want my students to leave my classes feeling like they have acquired a deeper understanding of the subject matter and new advocacy and counseling skills for their future clients. I try to push my students, challenge them, and even make them feel a little off-balance and uncomfortable so that they can grow as legal thinkers and attorneys.
Q: What do you enjoy most about living in Eugene?
A: Bike paths, hiking trails, parks, microbrews, not needing a car, being near the beach and the mountains, never being underdressed.
Q: What are some of your personal hobbies/interests outside of work?
A: Travel, cooking, running, cycling, hiking and backcountry camping, downhill skiing, tennis, wine.
Q: What is your absolute favorite thing to do when you aren’t working?
A: Being with my family.
Q: The most memorable place you have visited is…
A: I have to pick one? I worked for two years as the public defender for Yosemite National Park. I miss El Cap, running the Mirror Lake trail in the springtime, camping in the high country in the summer, the peach milkshakes at Shaver Lake after a week in the wilderness, coyote parties at midnight, and bears on the courthouse porch.
Q: Who most influenced your life or is someone you most look up to?
A: When I was a kid, I had a cat named Thurgood. He’s why I became a lawyer (Justice Marshall, not the cat).