School of Law and U.S. District Court Join Forces to Renovate Pope Room

Left to Right: Clerk of Court Tyler Gilman, Chief Bankruptcy Judge Benjamin Hursh, and Dean Paul KirgisThe Blewett School of Law at the University of Montana has a distinguished history of engagement with the federal judiciary. Former Professor Walter J. Pope was first a Judge and later Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, serving on the court from 1949-1961. When Judge Pope retired, his seat was filled by the Honorable James R. Browning, an alumnus of the School of Law. Judge Browning served on the Ninth Circuit for 50 years, also rising to the position of Chief Judge, which he held from 1976-1988. The current Chief Judge of the Ninth Circuit, the Honorable Sidney R. Thomas, is another graduate of the School of Law. Judge Thomas has served on the court since 1996, becoming Chief Judge in 2014.

In recognition of the service of Professor & Judge Pope, the School of Law constructed the Walter J. Pope Memorial Library in 1979 as part of an expansion of the School of Law’s existing library. Funded primarily through a federal grant, the Pope Room was intended to serve as a meeting room and gathering space benefitting both the School of Law and the judiciary. While it has served that function well, it is in need of updating.

Further, the needs of both the School of Law and the Federal Judiciary have changed. Today, both entities need a technologically advanced, modern space with conference-style seating to accommodate meetings, seminars, and other events for groups of ten to thirty people. An upgrade of the Pope Room will meet those needs, while deepening the engagement between the School of Law and the federal judges of the District of Montana.

That upgrade has begun, thanks to funding provided through the District of Montana’s Attorney Admission Fund. The $30,000 gift will provide for the purchase of new conference room furniture and classroom technology.

Chief Bankruptcy Judge Benjamin Hursh presented the check to School of Law Dean Paul F. Kirgis. “The Pope Room was initially conceived to honor Judge Pope’s service as a professor and member of the federal judiciary by providing a unique meeting space where the paths of law students, faculty and members of the judiciary would intersect,” said Judge Hursh. “In order to ensure that the room continues to fulfill that purpose, on behalf of the Attorney Admission Fund, I am delighted to present this check to you.”

Dean Kirgis echoed those sentiments. “We value our relationship with the federal judiciary and see a renovated Pope Room as a way to deepen that connection,” said Dean Kirgis. “We look forward to welcoming the judges of the District of Montana to use this beautiful space for years to come.”.