Q&A with Professor Andrew King-Ries

Background:  Professor Andrew King-Ries graduated from Brown University in 1988 with a degree in history. He received his law degree from Washington University in St. Louis, where he was Order of the Coif and an editor on the Washington University Law Quarterly.

Before becoming a faculty member at the Blewett School of Law, King-Ries was a speechwriter for the Secretary of Education, Lauro Cavazos; a clerk for the United States Court of Appeals of the Eighth Circuit; and, for eight years, was a prosecutor, specializing in domestic violence cases, for the King County Prosecutor's Office in Seattle, Washington.

King-Ries currently teaches Criminal Procedure, Criminal Law, Domestic Violence, Juvenile Justice, Law & Literature, and White Collar Crime and has taught clinical and constitutional law in the past.

Outside of the law school, King-Ries serves as a member of the Just Response Sexual Assault Resource Center Advisory Board. In addition, he is a member of the Montana Supreme Court Criminal Jury Instructions Committee and the chair of the University of Montana's Discrimination Grievance Committee.

King-Ries is the chair of the American Bar Association's Commission on Domestic and Sexual Violence. He was also recently appointed by American Bar Association President Judy Perry Martinez to the ABA Coronovirus Task Force

What drew you to the law, and to work in criminal law in particular?

I studied American Legal History in college and was fascinated with the role of the law in our country’s history.  So much of the history of the United States is legal, given our tendency to resolve our societal disputes through the law.  The law shapes society in profound ways.  I was drawn to its potential as a way of changing how our society treats marginalized people and makes good—or doesn’t—on our shared commitment to equality and justice.

You were a prosecutor in Seattle working on domestic violence cases before joining the faculty at the School of Law. What was that experience like?

Prosecution is about trying to do justice and hold people accountable for wrongs that occurred in the past. Most of the time, you are trying to restore the status quo for a crime victim.  Prosecuting domestic violence crimes is completely different.  It is about trying to change the status quo. Every year in the United States, an enormous number of people—women and men—experience violence in their intimate relationships. I learned so much from prosecuting domestic violence crimes and working with survivors about ways to change the status quo for them. It’s my hope we can move society toward a time when people do not live in fear of their intimate partners.

In addition to your courses on criminal law and criminal procedure, you and your colleagues Eduardo Capulong and Monte Mills developed a course on Race, Racism and the Law. Can you tell us more about that course?

Recent events such as the Black Lives Matter demonstrations, the rise of hate-crimes, conflicts over the border wall and family separation at the southern border, and greater recognition of murdered and missing Indigenous women highlight the fact that the country is deeply conflicted over race. Professor Eduardo Capulong, Professor Monte Mills and I created this class because we think it is important to have a space in the curriculum for our students to address race and racism since it is an issue they will deal with as lawyers. We have been teaching Race, Racism and American Law since 2016, examining the role of the law and the legal system in the creation of race and racism from the perspectives of Native Americans, African-Americans, and immigrants.

You chair the ABA Commission on Sexual and Domestic Violence. Can you talk about the work of that Commission?

I am honored to have been a member of the ABA Commission on Domestic and Sexual Violence since 2016.  In 2019, I began a three-year stint as Chair of the Commission. The Commission was created in 1994 after the passage of the Violence Against Women Act and is a recognized leader in improving access to justice for victims of domestic violence, sexual violence and stalking. We do this by participating in national policy initiatives and by training lawyers to better represent survivors of domestic and sexual violence. I enjoy working with experts from across the country and participating in these policy debates on a national level.  This is my first experience with the ABA and I cannot say enough positive things about it.  Everyone in the organization—from the President, to the staff of the Commission, to the dedicated volunteer Commissioners and ABA members—has been awesome to work with and absolutely committed the ABA’s mission of “defending liberty and delivering justice as the national representative of the legal profession.” 

In a partnership with the Missoula YWCA, you and your co-instructor Brandi Ries recently received a grant to start new Relationship and Sexual Violence Legal Clinic. Can you describe the work the students in that clinic will do?

Four years ago, in partnership with Brandi Ries, we started a domestic violence clinic at the law school to address the profound need for legal services for survivors of domestic and sexual violence in Montana. Brandi and the lawyers in her office—Emily Lucas and Robin Turner—are all excellent lawyers, skilled clinical supervisors and dedicated mentors for our students.  Since then, law students in the clinic have provided holistic civil legal services to hundreds of survivors, primarily in Sanders, Lake and Flathead Counties. 

Recently, thanks to a YWCA of Missoula grant, the domestic violence clinic will be able to have an office at the YWCA’s new facility, the Meadowlark, starting in spring 2021. We are grateful for this new partnership with the YWCA that allows us to also serve survivors in Missoula, Ravalli and Mineral counties and to co-locate legal services with other services that survivors need, such as housing, education, medical providers and daycare.

What is your current scholarship focus?

Since teaming up to teach the class on Race and Racism, Professors Capulong, Mills and I have been writing on the subject. In the past few years, we have co-authored two articles, a book chapter and are currently working on another book chapter and a book proposal. We are writing about the intersection of race and professional identity for lawyers and advocating for the legal system and legal educators to adopt antiracism as a component of professional identity.  Professor Capulong—now at CUNY Law School—and Professor Mills are outstanding teachers, colleagues and scholars, and I am fortunate to work with them both.