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As a college student, Professor Dawinder “Dave” Sidhu had a deal with his father, a physician. “The deal we had was that I could major in anything I wanted so long I also took the requisite pre-med courses,” he said. This allowed Sidhu, who joined the UNM law faculty in August 2011, to pursue his interest in philosophy.
After taking a course in the philosophy of law at the University of Pennsylvania, Sidhu became fascinated by the law and made the difficult decision to break the promise to his father. “I knew I wanted to study and be part of the law after that course,” he recalled. After obtaining a master’s in government from Johns Hopkins University, Sidhu went on to law school at The George Washington University Law School. Sidhu admits that law school started out as a purely intellectual exercise in understanding the framework and contents of the United States government.
Then, Sept. 11, 2001 arrived. Within hours, his focus had shifted. Sidhu was sitting in class as a first-year law student when the towers were struck. After receiving a number of emails about discrimination already being aimed at Sikhs, Sidhu, a Sikh himself, had found his sense of purpose as a lawyer.
“That day gave my interest in the law immediate practical meaning. I realized that I could use my legal training for the benefit of my family and my community, and I became more dedicated to civil rights in general,” said Sidhu. His academic interests also include national security, constitutional law, employment discrimination and education law.
During law school, Sidhu worked for the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. After earning his J.D. in 2004, he joined the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education, where he helped develop national policy that would be applied to civil rights complaints. Three years later, he began a year-long clerkship with U.S. District Judge David G. Campbell in Phoenix. That year confirmed Sidhu’s interest in law teaching.
Under Judge Campbell’s tutelage, Sidhu says he learned as much, if not more, about the law than in all three years of law school combined. He felt compelled to pass along to law students what he had learned.
After the clerkship ended, he began laying the groundwork for an academic career. He held research posts at the Georgetown University Law Center and Harvard University. Last spring, he was an adjunct professor at the University of Baltimore School of Law.
He also began writing at a furious pace; between 2009 and 2011, he co-authored a book and published six articles in academic legal journals, and has three more scheduled for publication. Most notable are, First Korematsu and now Ashcroft v. Iqbal: The Latest Chapter in the Wartime Supreme Court’s Disregard for Claims of Discrimination, published in the Buffalo Law Review in 2010, and Shadowing the Flag: Extending the Habeas Writ Beyond Guantanamo, schedule for publication in an upcoming issue of the William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal. He has also worked on several high-profile cases in the national security arena.
Sidhu now looks forward to sharing his enthusiasm and knowledge with students in his constitutional law class.
“What I want to do is explore the subject matter much like Judge Campbell did with me, through a respectful back-and-forth dialogue,” said Sidhu. “If the tone is conversational, my hope is that it will foster an engaged and comfortable learning climate that will excite students.”
Outside of work, Sidhu admits to being obsessed with professional ice hockey, the HBO-series “The Wire” and classic rock and older hip hop. He already has discovered the Frontier, and considers the consumption of an entire cinnamon roll to be one of his greatest accomplishments to date. He looks forward to many more visits to the university-area landmark, though he would not divulge whether he prefers red or green chile. “That’s personal,” he said with a smile.
August 17, 2011