Thursday, March 12, 1998

WRITER: Kathy R. Pharr, 542-5172

CONTACT: Jill C. Birch, 542-5190


ATHENS, Ga. -- It was billed as the "trial of the century" long before O.J. Simpson or Monica Lewinsky was even born: the courtroom showdown between science and religion that occurred in a quaint Tennessee town in July 1925. On Friday, April 3 at 2:30 p.m. in the University Chapel, the University of Georgia School of Law will present a re-enactment of portions of the Scopes Monkey Trial in celebration of Law Day, the annual observance of the principle and practice of American law and justice.

The Scopes trial pitted two arch rivals head-to-head: famed politician, orator and fundamentalist William Jennings Bryan and successful trial lawyer and avowed agnostic Clarence Darrow. The case centered upon a young high school teacher charged with teaching Darwin's theory of evolution in a state-supported school, which violated a new Tennessee law. Bryan and Darrow transformed that simple legal question into a trial of epic proportion by expanding the case into a duel over the hotly contested theories of creation and evolution. Bryan, arguing on the side of the prosecution, believed scientists -- in particular, those who taught the Darwinian theory of evolution -- were undermining the morals of 1920s American society. Darrow, representing the defense, was determined to debunk creationist thinking as an illogical myth.

"More than 200 journalists from across America descended on Dayton and reported every word to a fascinated public," said Ed Larson, a joint professor of history and law at the University of Georgia and author of the acclaimed 1997 book on the Scopes trial, Summer for the Gods. "It was the first broadcast trial, transmitted live over the radio and filmed for next-day presentation at movie houses in major cities of the Northeast. And it lived up to its billing when Darrow dramatically called Bryan to the witness stand to testify to the truth of his fundamentalist religion. This became the most famous scene in American courtroom history and lives on today in our nation's folklore."

Larson will introduce and summarize the program. The re-enactment, an adaptation of the play Destiny in Dayton, will be presented by mock trial and moot court students under the direction of third-year law student Marie Bruce. Commentary will be provided by Fuller E. Callaway Professor Ron Carlson, a leading authority on trial practice and evidence, and by Legal Aid & Defender Clinic Assistant Director Jo Carol Nesset-Sale.

A Law Day lecture will be presented at 11:15 a.m. in the law school auditorium. Michael Trotter, a partner with the Kilpatrick Stockton law firm in Atlanta and an adjunct professor at Emory University School of Law, will present "Profit and the Practice of Law: What's Happened to the Legal Profession?"

Trotter, author of Profit and the Practice of Law, will discuss how growth and change in the legal profession over the last four decades has affected the lives of lawyers, their status in their communities, and the delivery of legal services to clients. Both the lecture and re-enactment are open to the public, and lawyers may earn continuing legal education (CLE) credit for attendance by registering with Alumni Programs Director Jill Coveny Birch at (706) 542-5190.

Other Law Day events include Family Day observances, in which parents and spouses of first-year law students are invited to sit in on their law student's torts class. Tours of the building will be offered, and the annual student academic and leadership awards luncheon will be held at 12:30 p.m. in the Georgia Hall of the UGA Tate Student Center.

The day culminates in a 7 p.m. benefit auction at the Globe in downtown Athens to raise funds in support of public interest law fellowships for UGA law students. The Student Bar Association and Equal Justice Foundation, which organize the annual benefit, will auction local art work, local business packages, a signed item from R.E.M., and unique items donated by law alumni, faculty and staff.

All events are open free to the public, except the awards luncheon, for which tickets may be purchased from the School of Law's Alumni Programs Office.