Public interest wins big at auction


Free beer wasn’t the only thing on tap at the annual Public Interest Auction last week. There was also plenty of singing, dancing and, of course, high stakes bidding.

For eight years, the Public Interest Auction has served as a focal point in the HLS social calendar. More importantly, however, the auction is an annual cash cow for the funding of HLS students who forego the allure of law firm dollars in the pursuit of a public interest experience. Over the course of its existence, the auction has raised over $400,000 for public interest funding – including $100,000 last year.

According to preliminary estimates, this year’s auction exceeded even last year’s impressive haul. With an exact figure not yet determined, the auction has already pulled in over $120,000 after expenses.

The centerpiece of the event is the live auction, led by this year’s auctioneers, Professors Phil Heymann ’60 and Carol Steiker ’86. Prior to the live auction, hundreds of items were on display throughout Austin Hall for silent bidding.

The live auction featured live performances by the Stonecutters, known from their performance in this year’s HLS Parody, and the Scales of Justice a cappella singing group. Not all the entertainment was musical, however. Furious bidding accompanied Prof. Elena Kagan’s [’86] offer to host a night of poker. When the bid reached a high enough point, Kagan was impressed enough to offer two nights – one going for $2,000 and the other for $1,800.

Nick Brown ’02, star of CBS’s television program “Survivor”, offered a boomerang signed by the final nine contestants on that show. Disappointed by the boomerang’s haul – it was the first item auctioned and went for $350 – Brown offered to lunch with a bidder that sold for about $450.

Another high-ticket item was offered by Prof. Joseph H. H. Weiler. The professor auctioned off a week’s stay at his Croatian estate for approximately $2,600.

Students use money collected by the auction for to pursue volunteer public interest during their 1L and 2L summers. Past students have sought employment at the offices of prosecutors, public defenders, civil rights organizations, federal agencies and death penalty advocacy groups, among others.

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