LAP Students Spend Day at the Legislature

March 21, 2011

From l-r: Raul Burciaga (`00) shares the tasks of his office with students Alma Garcia (`12), Tunte Eaton (`11) and Michael Benally (`11).

The legislative process became real for law students when they traveled to Santa Fe in early March to spend a day at the Roundhouse during the Legislature. The students in Professor Denise Fort's Legislative and Administrative Processes course attended floor sessions of the House and Senate, along with committee hearings.

Gathered in a vacant hearing room before the day's activities began, students were visited by Sen. Tim Eichenberg, Raul Burciaga (`00), director of the Legislative Council Service, lobbyist Daniel Ivey Soto (`96) and others, who each presented their unique perspective of the law-making process. Throughout the day, other University of New Mexico School of Law graduates warmly greeted the students and shared brief perspectives on the increasingly heated session.

Daniel Ivey-Soto (`96) discusses his role as a lobbyist to students, who include (l-r) Quiana Salazar-King (`13) and Nick Trost (`13). Julia Maccini (`12) is in the background.

Later that day, the students visited Secretary of State Dianna Duran, who shared her perspective on the responsibilities of the office. The governor's chief of staff, Keith Gardner, gave a lively talk on the session and his approach to his position.

At the New Mexico Supreme Court, Justice Patricio Serna, who was Fort's teacher years ago at Catholic University, provided a behind-the-scenes tour of the court.

"Many UNM law students have an intense interest in law making, and will join the process as legislators, lobbyists or governmental officials," said Fort. "The class is intended to cover the gamut from statutory interpretation to how to determine when a bill will be heard. We also look at Congressional processes, and in that area we were treated to a fascinating lecture by UNM Emeritus Professor Fred Harris on the filibuster and its history in the U.S. Senate."

The class broke into two groups this year. Larry Horan (`75), a lobbyist, hosted lunch for one group of students, which included his son, Peter Horan (`13).

"I am always moved by the generosity that people in the legislative process and in the courts extend to our students," said Fort. "Spending time in Santa Fe during the Legislature can open students' eyes to new career opportunities, which may not have occurred to them. That, of course, is the reward of teaching."

Julia Maccini (`12) Bitten by Law-making Process

Julia Maccini (`12) listens to Ron Forte, chief of staff for Sen. Tim Jennings. Professor Denise Fort takes notes.

Once was not enough for Julia Maccini (`12), who, after completing the Legislative and Administrative Processes (LAP) course last year, came back as a tutor in 2011. For her, spending time at the Roundhouse during the Legislature is more than work, it's a passion.

Her initiation to the law-making process began when she was an analyst for Sen. Ben Altamirano during the 2007 legislative session. Hooked by the crazy way laws are made, she landed a job in U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman's Santa Fe office, where she was a constituent services representative, field representative, focusing on education, health care, veteran's affairs. She also set up appointments during Bingaman's visits to New Mexico.

She has remained involved in the Legislature as a law student. During her first year, she was a student advocate for the UNM Graduate and Professional Student Association, and this year, as Dean Kevin Washburn's research assistant, she followed legislation that directly impacted the UNM School of Law's budget and kept him apprised of developments. Maccini also has registered to work with lobbyist Julianna Koob (`09)

With another year to go before she earns her J.D., Maccini appreciates how she has been able to remain involved in the law-making process. As Professor Denise Fort's LAP tutor, she helped organize the class visits to Santa Fe. She's also curious to learn about the private side of government relations.

"I love government affairs and administrative law and how quickly things happen at the state level," she said. "It's exciting to see and be a part of how laws are made."