Kenneth Starr visits U gala

Amy Hackbarth

Many Americans might equate Kenneth Starr with a presidential sex scandal and investigations into illicit real estate transactions.

Starr served as a special prosecutor in the Whitewater investigation and in former President Bill Clinton’s 1998 impeachment trial.

But Starr didn’t discuss the trials, which he called “recent unpleasantness,” at the annual scholarship gala for the Minnesota Association of Black Lawyers on Saturday night.

Instead he said there is a need for togetherness since the Sept. 11 attacks.

“We were reminded rather rudely, weren’t we,” Starr said. “On September the 11th that whatever our disagreements are, they pale in significance. We are many, but we are one.

“You know, on Sept. 10, had I been wearing this flag, or if I had been flying my American flag on my automobile, people might justly have asked, ‘Why? It’s not the Fourth of July, is it?'” Starr said. “But in some way, we want to manifest our sense of commitment. We have been reminded of our unity as a people.”

The association asked Starr, now a judge, to speak about his recent work to fight human rights abuses.

“If that’s not what you want to talk about, then you’re on your own,” said Jerry Blackwell, master of ceremonies for the event. “And I can impeach you.”

Starr discussed his participation in the Advocates International human rights group and a case he argued in May with Johnnie Cochran, in which they represented three men arrested in Washington, D.C., for protesting Sudanese genocide.

“There was an opportunity for people around the country at least to hear in an abbreviated fashion on the steps of the courthouse of the Superior Court these great voices of Walter Fauntroy, of Joe Madison, ‘the Black Eagle,’ and of Mike Horowitz and their odd couple lawyers, all in collective unity, saying, ‘This is wrong and the administration must set its face against these policies,'” Starr said.

University Law School Dean E. Thomas Sullivan introduced Starr, calling him a “lawyer’s lawyer.” Sullivan said his friendship with Starr reaches back 28 years, when the two met through their clerkpositions. They lived across the street from each other and had wives in the same graduate program.

After Starr’s speech, attendees honored the recipients of four scholarships.

“Now this evening, the torch passing to other recipients of the scholarship reminds us of the brightness of the human spirit and of generosity,” Starr said.

Rose McGee awarded Cheree Haswell, a second-year law student at the University, a scholarship named after her deceased husband William McGee.

William, who died of cancer last year, founded MABL and worked as an attorney for the Legal Rights Center, a nonprofit organization for low-income people of color. William also worked for the NAACP and was an adjunct faculty member at William Mitchell College of Law. McGee received a master’s degree in classical studies at the University and graduated with honors from the University Law School.

“Now students will be able to do the same things that Billy was about,” McGee said.

Haswell, who received her undergraduate degree in chemical engineering from Florida A&M University, said she plans to specialize in patent law.

Nicole Morris, a second-year University law student, won a scholarship awarded by the association. Morris received an undergraduate degree in chemical engineering from Northwestern University and a master’s degree in chemistry from the University of Michigan.

Amy Hackbarth welcomes comments at [email protected]