What and where were you before law school?
I grew up in Tequesta, Florida, located at the northern end of Palm Beach County. Before law school I was active in politics, a full-time real estate agent and involved with multiple business ventures. I was especially interested in the entertainment business and in the media in general. I started writing music when I was 13 years old and for many years dreamed of being a professional musician.
How did you come to be pro-life?
I was raised to be pro-life and was always against abortion. However, prior to going to Ave Maria School of Law, I really didn’t understand the extent of what being pro-life actually meant.
My position before law school was that I wanted to encourage women to give life a chance, to think about what could be. But I didn’t feel comfortable being an outspoken advocate because I did not understand all of the issues. I prayed in front of an abortion clinic once or twice, but I wasn’t sure about what I could do to make a difference.
My mom was told by a nurse to “go to Planned Parenthood and take care of the problem” when she was pregnant with me. When she told me the story I knew that I wanted to do more to protect the unborn. Perhaps through music I could make an impact on the culture. Perhaps by using the media I could make a difference. I just didn’t know how or what exactly I was going to do, but I felt like I was being called to do something.
What made you decide to go to law school?
I decided to go to law school for several reasons. First, I wanted to better myself academically and I wanted to be more competitive in business. I was most fascinated by contracts, intellectual property, and labor law (all a part of entertainment and media law). I had a theory that if I couldn’t break through the front door of the entertainment industry, perhaps I could simply walk through the back door as a lawyer. But I also thought having a law degree would give me a valuable asset for business and with my career.
When I started looking at law schools I discovered Ave Maria School of Law (“AMSL”). AMSL had started in Michigan and was moving to Naples, Florida. When I visited the new Florida campus it felt like home. AMSL is a mission oriented law school. It is pro-life and I felt like I could be openly conservative without fear of ridicule by my peers or professors. Plus, AMSL offered a spiritual component that I longed for. It combined the Catholic intellectual tradition with the law. It was at AMSL that I truly became PRO LIFE—capital letters all the way.
Just weeks after I started my 1L (first) year at AMSL, Planned Parenthood of Naples began performing abortions for the first time in over 20 years. This was crazy—a pro-life law school and an abortion clinic opening their doors within weeks of each other.
At orientation I met Elise Kenny who wanted to go to law school for one reason, “to become a pro-life lawyer.” She encouraged me to start attending the Saturday prayer vigils in front of Planned Parenthood. The largest student organization at AMSL is called Lex Vitae (the pro-life group) and so we joined the group together. Because of Elise I went nearly every Saturday of my 1L year to pray in front of Planned Parenthood.
During my second semester of 1L year and after attending my first March for Life, I was nominated and became President of Lex Vitae Society. I realized that all along I was being called to be a voice for the unborn, I just didn’t listen until I got to AMSL. My first step was to create a strategy for winning the war to save the unborn. I needed a promotional vehicle to reach and impact the culture. MariaNews.com was one part of the puzzle, a pro-life news and entertainment network. I launched Maria News the second semester of my first year in law school.
How did you come to know of LLDF?
I came to learn of LLDF because of the Phill Kline case. My second summer of law school I was interning at Immaculata Law Firm in Chicago when I met Tom Ciesielka at an event hosted by the Thomas More Society. Tom later emailed me a press release about LLDF’s work in representing AG Phill Kline. I published the story on MariaNews.com, and was able to set up a phone interview with Dana Cody. Dana’s dedication and her leadership instantly impressed me. I was also inspired by all that LLDF was doing to advocate for the unborn.
After attending my second March for Life something dawned on me. Every year, hundreds of thousands of people attend the March for Life in Washington, D.C. There are tons of wonderful pro-life organizations from around the country. They all march together for one day. But what happens the day after the March? Where do all of the groups go? What can we do to bring these groups together and to encourage leaders in the pro-life movement to engage our youth?
At last year’s March for Life in D.C. you were the organizer of the Law of Life Summit, sponsored by Ave Maria. What was the process in getting that started?
After much prayer and reflection the idea came about to create the Law of Life Summit. “Pro-life leaders and law students creating measurable and achievable objectives for overturning Roe v. Wade and for defending the sanctity of human life.” The idea was simple. We pack a room full of some of the brightest minds in the movement, along with students and we create 6-month and 1-year objectives. We would hold the Summit twice per year to measure our success.
We must focus on short-term and long-term goals to end abortion. If we set a 10- or 20-year goal to make an impact on our culture we can win! But the war is bigger than just the law. We must utilize the media and education as well. The Law of Life Summit is an opportunity for students and leaders to network, but it also an opportunity to create a unified voice for the pro-life movement.
I called Dana and pitched the idea for the Law of Life Summit, which would be held in Washington, D.C. before the March for the Life. She was glad to speak to the students at the Summit. LLDF was one of the first organizations to sign on!
We have since held two Law of Life Summits.
Beyond mobilizing those attending the summit, in your opinion how has it helped promote the pro-life message?
The Law of Life Summit has opened many doors. There have been multiple collaborations with students and pro-life organizations that I am aware of. Also, we had several students attend who were “on the fence” and not really sure what they wanted to do (if anything) in the pro-life movement. One of the students is now the national coordinator for Lex Vitae Society at AMSL and has decided to focus his career on pro-life advocacy. Also through the Law of Life Summit I was given the opportunity to join the board for the March for Life Foundation. The Law of Life Summit is essentially creating a network. It’s not about any one person or one organization. It’s about the defense of life.
Will LLDF be involved in the 2013 Law of Life Summit? What will be their part in organizing the Summit?
Law of Life Summit “3” will be held in 2013 in conjunction with the 40th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Dana Cody and LLDF have been a vital part of the planning for Summit “3”. Working with AMSL, the March for Life, LLDF and other pro-life groups we plan to host the most significant Summit yet. The theme for Summit “3” will focus on utilizing the media to achieve our objectives for communicating the pro-life message. For lawyers (whether they are engaged in the pro-life movement or not) understanding how to present a message in front of a camera or in a courtroom is critical to the success of any campaign. Summit “3” will include a media workshop for instruction on utilizing the media and on drafting a concrete message. More details on the Law of Life Summit “3” will be available soon at LawLife.org
What would be your advice to other law students with respect to using their career to advance the pro-life cause?
No matter what you do, you can use your career to support the pro-life movement.
Students need to pray and discern whether they are called to work full time in the pro-life movement or not. Either way, they can be involved and they can make a difference! Some students will have the opportunity to achieve great success in their legal or professional careers. They can help by supporting a pro-life organization financially or by simply volunteering.
Other students may feel called to serve the pro-life movement as their career. This is a special calling and it will come with its challenges. Don’t be afraid. Have faith. If you are called to work full time for the defense of life, God will provide you with everything you need. In my experience Divine Providence, always delivers! The Law of Life Summit is a perfect example. The event was planned with little more than two months. Everything just worked out. If it is God’s will, it will happen.
I have become acquainted with many of the leaders in the pro-life movement. These folks could be doing anything. They could be some of the most successful leaders in law, business, media or anything that they focus on. Instead they have dedicated their careers on being a voice for those who do not have one. One thing that strikes me about all of these people is that they all have faith. It’s important to have God central in your life, especially if you are going to enter the battlefield for the unborn.
If you are considering dedicating your career to the pro-life movement than perhaps one thing you can do is volunteer or intern for an organization like LLDF. Pro-life leaders are usually pleased to mentor students. This is an excellent way to get your feet wet and to determine if pro-life work is for you.
[This article was printed in Lifeline Vol. XXI, No. 2 (Summer 2012) Read in PDF.]