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Professor Anthony Renzo has carried around an abiding sense of justice his entire life. As long as he can remember, he has been the person who brought a deep-seated commitment to fairness in any situation, from playing games as a child to his law practice.
Renzo now brings that sense of fairness to the classroom. He joined the faculty at the University of New Mexico School of Law in 2012, after 11 years as a professor of law at the Vermont Law School. At UNM, he is teaching elements of legal argumentation.
Growing up in Iowa, the son of Italian and Cherokee parents, Renzo loved school; the more he learned, the more he wanted to know. When he enrolled at the University of Iowa, he was the first in his family to attend college. He was attracted to a career in the law for the choices it offered: he could work for a firm, go on his own or become a law professor. In fact, he has done all of those during his career.
“I knew what I wanted to do as a lawyer,” he said. “I was interested in constitutional and civil liberties law, and that is what I developed as my specialty in practice.”
A passion for civil liberties
After earning his J.D. from the University of Colorado School of Law, Renzo clerked for the chief justice of the Colorado Supreme Court and thereafter joined a small firm in Denver, where he focused on bankruptcy, general civil litigation and criminal defense. He took on civil liberties cases on his own time, pro bono.
Five years later, he formed his own firm with his constitutional law professor from law school. For the next 10 years, they handled complex civil litigation, with an emphasis on civil liberties cases. Renzo also began teaching First Amendment law at his law school alma mater, along with legal process and political theory to undergraduate students.
“I wanted to share my passion for the legal process, and especially civil liberties law, with students,” he said.
In 1988, Renzo took a break from practice and accepted a position as director of the California Bar Examination. He worked to increase the minority pass rate on the California bar exam. He also developed an ethics exam for lawyers who had been disciplined, as a requirement to reinstate their license.
He enjoyed the challenge of improving the profession, but Renzo missed the courtroom, and in 1992, he returned home to Iowa to a new law partnership. He again pursued his passion for civil liberties work, at both the trial and appellate levels, arguing in courts from Washington, D.C. to Denver.
Writing and the law
Everywhere he went, Renzo continued to teach, and in 2001, he left behind the courtroom for the classroom to join the law faculty at Vermont Law School. “I followed my passion rather than my pocketbook,” he said.
At Vermont, he taught an appellate advocacy course that focused on pending U.S. Supreme Court cases and he developed a constitutional rights litigation course. Renzo, a strong writer, also taught a variety of legal writing courses.
At UNM, Renzo looks forward to contributing to the school’s excellent legal writing program. “I also have ideas for an advanced appellate advocacy course and courses in constitutional torts and national security law.” In addition, Renzo intends to continue to pursue his scholarly interests in the intersection of national security law and civil liberties, especially as it relates to the constitutional limits on the military detention of civilians.
He is excited to be a part of the UNM School of Law’s richly diverse community. “More than anything, I look forward to the students at New Mexico and what they will bring to the classroom,” he said.
Outside of the classroom, Renzo enjoys cycling, hiking, live music, movies, theater, baseball and travel, often with his wife, Tamara. “I love the geography of New Mexico – its light, sky, land and vastness,” he said. They have three grown children.
September 6, 2012