Meet Robert C. Fellmeth, 2021 Witkin Award Honoree for Excellence in Legal Education
Each week this month we are featuring a 2021 Bernard E. Witkin Award Honoree chosen by the San Diego Law Library Foundation. The Witkin Awards celebrate excellence in the San Diego legal community and the good works done by the honorees. This week we are spotlighting the Witkin Award Honoree for Excellence in Legal Education, Prof. Robert C. Fellmeth.
Prof. Fellmeth has held the Price Faculty Chair in Public Interest Law at the University of San Diego since 1984. His background includes four years working as a consumer advocate with Ralph Nader, publishing books, and sponsoring federal consumer legislation during the 1960s-70s. Then, he served 9 years as a white-collar crime state (and cross-commissioned federal) prosecutor. He litigated 22 antitrust cases in state and federal court, obtaining 22 judgments. He drafted part of California’s Unfair Competition Law. He taught at the National Judicial College, established by the U.S. Supreme Court to train state court judges. He is the co-author of the Treatise California White Collar Crime (with Papageorge, Tower, Sixth Edition, 2020).
At the University of San Diego School of Law, Fellmeth taught Antitrust Law, Consumer Law, Child Rights, and Public Interest Law. He founded USD’s Center for Public Interest Law (CPIL) in 1980, its Children’s Advocacy Institute in 1989, and its Energy Policy Initiatives Center in 2005. These entities have published 23 studies or books, sponsored 110 enacted statutes, and litigated 60 published appellate cases. The statutes include sunshine laws making regulatory agencies more visible and accountable, and many statutes covering child safety and protection. The Children’s Advocacy Institute’s 1996 swimming pool safety law was recently credited in a study as accomplishing an over-60% reduction in child drownings. For the last thirty years, he has taught student policy clinics, involving research and work on many of those statutes, as well as appellate litigation and agency rule-making. USD is one of the few law schools with a functioning office in its state capitol and the only one that also has an office in Washington, D.C., interacting with federal agencies and Congress. He has taught about 2,000 students, some of whose photos and resumes are on the “Changemaker Wall” at USD, including 6 current judges.
His teaching has long included Public Interest Law and Practice, now to be named “State Regulatory Law and the Public Interest.” His teaching over this 30-year period also has included “Child Rights and Remedies.” This class includes policy work and Legal representation of children in juvenile courts in San Diego where students are specially certified by the State Bar enabling them to function as counsel. He co-authored the text for this Child Rights class with Jessica Heldman (Child Rights and Remedies, 4th edition, Clarity Press, 2019) and the text is being considered for adoption in classes on juvenile law in numerous other law schools.
Fellmeth has served as a White-Collar Crime expert, especially for the Attorney General and offices of district attorneys. He assisted in discovery against Duke Energy as part of the energy crisis in California, resulting in a $300 million penalty assessment and the district attorney directed $4 million to USD within CPIL to endow a center on Global Warming. The Energy Policy Initiatives Center (EPIC) advises governmental units on carbon reduction and holds symposia of national experts and officials yearly. It supplies material to the school’s Journal of Climate and Energy Law, believed to be the first law review to center on Global Warming.
He served as the only State Bar Discipline Monitor of California (1987-92), proposing reforms, including its precedent-setting independent State Bar Court. He has been a part of the Board of Consumers’ Union of the United States and of Common Cause of California; has been on the Board of Public Citizen in Washington, DC for 25 years (Chair for 20); served on the Board of the National Association of Counsel for Children (NACC) for 25 years (Chair for 18), and is currently on its Emeritus Board; and is on the Boards of First Star, the Maternal and Child Health Access Foundation, and the Partnership for America’s Children (PAC). The PAC has child advocate members in 42 state capitols. He serves as counsel to the PAC Board and chairs its Policy Committee, currently working on a national website of model state statutes advancing the interests of children for adoption in additional states.
Join the celebration of Robert C. Fellmeth’s contributions to the legal community by making your reservation for the San Diego Law Library Foundation’s 2021 Bernard E. Witkin Award Reception. This year’s reception will be held on October 14th from 5:30 pm to 8:30 pm at Tom Ham’s Lighthouse, and also be virtually streamed online for those who cannot attend in person. The Witkin Award Reception is the primary fundraiser of the San Diego Law Library Foundation.