Last month, the School of Public Policy (SPP) announced the appointment of Federal Judge Leigh Martin May to its faculty as a professor of the practice.
Judge May will be teaching the U.S. Constitutional Issues class, PUBP 3000, this semester as part of the SPP’s Law, Science, and Technology (LST) program.
As a professor of the practice, she will also meet with students interested in the law profession and provide opportunities to watch live court proceedings.
Judge May is a Tech alumnus, having graduated from the Institute with a Bachelor’s of Science in Business Management in 1993. She earned her J.D. from the University of Georgia School of Law in 1998.
After graduating from law school, she clerked for Judge Dudley H. Bowen, Jr. of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Georgia.
In 2013, President Barack Obama nominated May to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. In 2014, the U.S. Senate confirmed her nomination by a vote of 99-0.
The Technique had the opportunity to interview Judge May last week.
Technique: What have been the highlights of your time on the federal bench?
Judge May: The relationships I’ve made with my fellow judges and my staff have been one of the best parts of what I do. I also enjoy solving problems — analyzing the arguments of the parties and applying precedent to find what I think is the best solution to their conflict. Even if it might not be the answer they were wanting, I hope it does provide them some closure.
Technique: What are you most excited for returning to Tech?
Judge May: Preparing to teach this course has made me think more about my Tech experience. It has made me excited about interacting with a new generation of Tech students and sharing what I’ve learned in the almost 30 years since I have left. I am also excited to learn from them in what I hope is an interactive class experience.
Technique: What do you hope students will take away from your Constitutional Issues course?
Judge May: Most everyone has opinions on issues related to constitutional law. I am hoping that my class will help students understand how and why the law handles the issues that they care about in particular ways. I also hope that this understanding will help them become better advocates. For Tech students possibly interested in studying the law, I hope that this class will help them gather information to help them with that decision.
Technique: What advice do you have for students interested in law or public service?
Judge May: Practicing law has been the perfect career for me. I am always learning which I love. At the same time, it’s not always easy. The hours are often long, and the issues are important. There is [often] conflict, and you must always do your best. I would encourage anyone who thinks that this career is for them to go for it. Going to law school was one of the best decisions that I made. Even if a student decides that law school isn’t for them, that shouldn’t stop them from getting involved in their community. There are so many different ways to provide public service and to do important and interesting work.
Judge May joins the SPP at a time of major growth for its LST program.
The program offers students interested in law the ability to explore the field through its flexible pre-law curriculum, pre-law advising, events in the overlapping areas of law and technology and opportunities for
Professor Chad Slieper, who currently serves as the Director of the LST Program shared that he is “looking forward to [students] and faculty having the opportunity to learn more about Judge May’s experiences as a Judge, as an attorney and as a Georgia Tech alum.”
He emphasized that this is a special opportunity for students to learn from “someone who has truly reached the pinnacle of the legal profession.”
As mentioned earlier, Judge May is a Georgia Tech alumnus which Slieper added will provide another benefit to students.
“Combining her understanding of us with helping us understand her unique experiences sitting on the federal bench is something that I think will enrich the perspectives of students and faculty at Tech who
have an interest in law,” Slieper said.
Slieper also discussed the special role Judge May will play inside and outside the classroom as a professor of the practice.
“When the Law, Science, and Technology Program began recruiting for a new instructor earlier this year to teach PUBP 3000: Constitutional Issues, my dream was to recruit a federal judge. There isn’t anyone better situated to help students understand how Constitutional Law works and how the Constitution affects our day-to-day lives than one of the judges who is sworn to uphold it. To be able to have this experience of learning from a federal judge in a classroom setting, especially as an undergraduate, is incredibly unique.”
Finally, Slieper described the growth and development of the LST program over the past several years. stating that “from 2018-2019 to 2021-2022, we have doubled the number of students graduating from Georgia Tech with an LST Minor, and we’ve seen the number of students enrolled in our courses increase substantially year over year.”
“We’ve also expanded our course offerings to include a course in Law, Medicine, and Ethics, as well as a course offered jointly with HSOC [School of History and Sociology] in Sports Law & Policy.”
Moving forward, Slieper expects to “redouble [the] focus on pre-law students and making sure [the program meets] their needs as they explore careers in law and law school admissions.”
Slieper closed by discussing his goal of creating a larger community “beyond pre-law…to help students, faculty, and alumni from across campus and our community feel like they have a home with LST to explore their interests. For example, we’re looking now at how best to connect with graduate students interested in law, and we hope to host more programming around topics at the intersection of law, science and technology for the Tech community more broadly.”
Slipper also mentioned that on Sept. 1, the LST and SPP are co-hosting a Flax lecture “around issues in public health law, where Emory Law Professor Polly Price will be visiting to talk about her new book ‘Plagues in the Nation: How Epidemics Shaped America,’ that explores the fraught response of public health law to various public health threats, including COVID.”
The event will be held from 5-7 p.m. in Price Gilbert Library. For more information about the event, visit https://iac.gatech.edu/events/item/660064/governing-disease-amidst-plagues-nation.
For students interested in learning more about the LST program, you can find more information at https://spp.gatech.edu/lst or by contacting Chad Slieper at [email protected].