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Million-dollar foundation gift to help turn Capitol Annex into ‘Law Learning Center’

A million-dollar gift from the Laura Moore Cunningham Foundation will help turn Idaho’s Capitol Annex - formerly the Ada County Courthouse - into a new Idaho Law Learning Center, housing the state law library, the University of Idaho’s Boise law program, and the state’s judicial and legal education programs. The gift from the Idaho-based foundation is specifically for the building renovations, which are targeted to be completed within two to three years. The state law library, which is operated by the UI College of Law under an agreement with the Idaho Supreme Court, previously was housed in the Idaho Supreme Court building on its first floor, but was squeezed out by the expansion of the state Court of Appeals; the law library is now split into two locations, the Supreme Court’s basement and space at Key Bank downtown.

“Idaho’s public College of Law is distinctive in its ability to serve the state through a unified program that offers opportunities in two locations,” said Don Burnett, the law school dean. “Our state benefits from having homegrown legal expertise that supports economic development and other legal services that Idaho families and communities need. The public also will benefit from enhancements to the Idaho State Law Library, which is used by the general citizenry and by students throughout the Treasure Valley, as well as by the judiciary and the legal profession. We are profoundly grateful to the Idaho Supreme Court for its leadership in developing this concept.”

UI President Duane Nellis said, “The Idaho Supreme Court, the University of Idaho and the Laura Moore Cunningham Foundation all have a long and rich history of serving the state of Idaho. This gift links to a shared heritage and moves us forward. We are gratified by the foundation’s investment in the university’s and college’s mission to provide public legal education to the state.” Click below to read the UI’s full announcement; the UI began offering third-year law courses in Boise this week as the first step in its Boise law program.


Aug. 24, 2010

Million Dollar Gift Supports Public Legal Education in Boise

BOISE, Idaho – The face of public legal education in Idaho is getting a lift thanks to the generous support of the Laura Moore Cunningham Foundation. The Idaho-based nonprofit – committed to educational excellence for students and institutions – has committed $1 million to the University of Idaho College of Law for development of an Idaho Law Learning Center in Boise at the historic Ada County Courthouse. The Law Learning Center is a collaborative undertaking of the university and the Idaho Supreme Court.

“The Idaho Supreme Court, the University of Idaho and the Laura Moore Cunningham Foundation all have a long and rich history of serving the state of Idaho,” said University President Duane Nellis. “This gift links to a shared heritage and moves us forward. We are gratified by the foundation’s investment in the university’s and college’s mission to provide public legal education to the state.”

The gift will enable the university to implement the specific renovations needed to transform the courthouse building into the future home of the Idaho Law Learning Center, a joint vision of the College of Law and the Idaho Supreme Court. The building, which is owned by the state of Idaho, also will undergo general renovations planned by the Division of Public Works in the State Department of Administration.

The renovated facility will become home to the College of Law third-year program; to the Idaho State Law Library, operated by the college under an agreement with the Supreme Court; and will be a venue for judicial education and law-related public education – all of the components of the “law learning center” concept.

“The Laura Moore Cunningham Foundation is dedicated to strengthening Idaho by investing in the institutions that support our state’s advancement,” said Laura Bettis, director of the Laura Moore Cunningham Foundation. “Our foundation values the University of Idaho’s leadership and contributions to the state’s development. The Idaho Law Learning Center is a tremendous partnership between the university and the Idaho Supreme Court that will increase the level of statewide access to quality public legal education and important legal resources. The foundation is proud to support this distinctive collaboration.”

The partnership for the center in Boise supports the University of Idaho’s mission to provide statewide public legal education for the state, said College of Law Dean Don Burnett.

“Idaho’s public College of Law is distinctive in its ability to serve the state through a unified program that offers opportunities in two locations,” said Burnett. “Our state benefits from having homegrown legal expertise that supports local economic development and other legal services that Idaho families and communities need. The public also will benefit from enhancements to the Idaho State Law Library, which is used by the general citizenry and by students throughout the Treasure Valley, as well as by the judiciary and the legal profession. We are profoundly grateful to the Idaho Supreme Court for its leadership in developing this concept.”

The third-year law program in Boise, accredited by the American Bar Association, will focus on business law, economic development and entrepreneurism. While renovation work is being completed at the courthouse building, law classes will meet at the University of Idaho-Boise location at Front and Broadway in Boise. Classes for the initial group of 30 third-year students started on Aug. 23. The program is made possible through private support and law student fees that are subject to State Board of Education approval. In 2008, the State Board of Education approved the college’s third-year program in Boise and the university’s collaboration with the Idaho Supreme Court to create the Idaho Law Learning Center.

Public legal education for Idaho’s citizens has been part of the university’s mission for more than a century. Its relevance, described by the institution’s first provisional president, attorney James Forney, rings true in the college’s second century: “…the development of [Idaho’s] resources” and the “complexity of modern affairs” require “minds enriched by a knowledge of the history and a comprehension of the philosophy of law.”

Burnett said this historic balance of teaching, scholarship and outreach still defines the statewide land-grant mission for the 21st century. It provides the foundation for giving students the opportunity to acquire expertise in commerce, economic development, entrepreneurism, international business transactions, and regulatory law through a year of study in Boise.

The Laura Moore Cunningham Foundation already supports undergraduate scholarship programs at the University of Idaho, helping to keep some of the state’s brightest students in Idaho as future contributors to the state’s communities and economy. It is one of Idaho’s oldest and largest charitable foundations.

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About the University of Idaho
Founded in 1889, the University of Idaho is the state’s flagship higher-education institution and its principal graduate education and research university, bringing insight and innovation to the state, the nation and the world. University researchers attract nearly $100 million in research grants and contracts each year; the University of Idaho is the only institution in the state to earn the prestigious Carnegie Foundation ranking for high research activity. The university’s student population includes first-generation college students and ethnically diverse scholars. Offering more than 130 degree options in 10 colleges, the university combines the strengths of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. The university is home to the Vandals, the 2009 Roady’s Humanitarian Bowl champions. For information, visit www.uidaho.edu


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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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