New agricultural law course fills longtime void in Arizona

August 21, 2017

Agriculture has long been an important part of Arizona’s economy. Thanks to a member of one of the Phoenix area’s most influential farming families, agricultural law will be taught at an Arizona law school for the first time this fall.

Richard Morrison, who for decades has practiced and taught law in Arizona and has overseen several prominent family-owned agricultural enterprises, will teach the agricultural law class at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University. The course will provide an overview of the ways legal aspects of agricultural production and agribusiness differ significantly from other industrial enterprises. And it will fill a longtime void. Richard Morrison Richard Morrison will teach the agricultural law class at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at ASU. The course will provide an overview of the ways legal aspects of agricultural production and agribusiness differ significantly from other industrial enterprises. Download Full Image

“This course fills a critical gap in our curriculum, and it’s something I’ve wanted us to offer for years,” said Troy Rule, faculty director of the Law and Sustainability Program at ASU Law. “The agricultural industry is a huge part of the state’s economy, so it’s great that we can finally educate students on the legal and policy issues surrounding it.”

Current and evolving regulations will be discussed in order to emphasize the fact that law becomes the embodiment of public policy, and policy often begins or changes in the context of proposed regulations. Professor Morrison said the class will highlight the unique agricultural applications of commercial, tort, natural resources and tax law.

The Morrisons were one of the first families to settle in the town of Gilbert, where they transformed small landholdings into one of the East Valley’s biggest farming operations, one of the nation’s largest dairy farms and one of Arizona’s largest ranching businesses. Morrison has worked throughout his life to make improvements for Arizona, agriculture and his community, including mentoring young adults interested in agriculture or civic leadership. This class will enable him to expose students with various educational backgrounds to the opportunities within agricultural law. While this course is on a trial basis, he would like to see it, or something similar, become permanent in ASU Law course listings.

“It is time for Arizona to support the next generation of agricultural lawyers, and this course will help us achieve that goal,” Morrison said. “Students will begin to see opportunities for employment after graduation in service of farmers, ranchers and the agribusiness sector. They will also have the opportunity to network with law students at other universities who are taking agricultural law classes. There are fewer than 1,000 members of the American Agricultural Law Association in the United States, and it is thus possible for each agricultural lawyer to feel a part of a unique community where everybody knows your name.”

Students will get to travel beyond the classroom to gain real-world experience and network with agricultural lawyers. One such opportunity will be the American Agricultural Law Association Annual Educational Symposium in Louisville from Oct. 26 to 28. Students who attend the symposium will hear from legal and policy experts who will address current issues in the industry, and recent case decisions in agriculture, natural resources, water, food, environmental and agribusiness law.

ASU’s Law and Sustainability Program is one of the most innovative in the country, and it is ranked No. 23 by U.S. News & World Report. Faculty experts research and teach in every major area of sustainability policy, including climate change, water, energy and environmental protection.

“This is an important addition because it expands the breadth of our program,” Rule said. “We offer courses covering a wide range of sustainability-related issues, and this was one of the last remaining areas where we lacked coverage.”

Morrison, who earned a Doctor of Jurisprudence from the University of Houston in 1977, continued farming while beginning his law practice focused on water law, environmental law and issues facing special districts and agriculture. He became an expert in water law and was honored by having his biography published in Arizona’s Finest Lawyers. He has taught water resources management and agricultural law at ASU’s Morrison School of Agribusiness and Resource Management for many years. The school was created with a gift from Morrison’s parents and is housed under ASU’s prestigious W. P. Carey School of Business.

“Richard is the ideal instructor to teach this class,” Rule said. “He’s a brilliant scholar, lawyer and teacher, and he understands the agricultural industry in Arizona as well as anybody.”

To learn more about ASU Law’s Law and Sustainability Program, go to

Senior director of communications, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law


SERVECON 2017 builds community, honors service

August 21, 2017

What could we accomplish if we worked together?

That was the theme of the College of Public Service and Community Solutions welcome event, SERVECON, which brought together nearly 200 freshmen and transfer students embarking on careers in public service.   SERVECON 2017 Students in the College of Public Service and Community Solutions learn about the power of working together. Photo by Bryan Mok/ASU Download Full Image

“When you come into a path of public service, you are saying, ‘I am interested in a course of study that is about creating public goods, creating shared resources and building things that are enjoyed as a community.’ You are doing something quite profound,” Dean Jonathan Koppell said, welcoming the students to the college.

The new students will be joining the college’s four schools: School of Community Resources and Development, School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, School of Public Affairs and the School of Social Work.

Joining a community

It was the first day of an education that immerses students in hands-on learning and community engagement. Through internships, Community Impact Labs, service learning classes and undergraduate research, students in the college gain practical experience working with community organizations.

“We believe you learn public service best by doing public service,” said Cynthia Lietz, senior associate dean. “Our students have countless opportunities to be engaged in work that builds stronger, more vibrant communities whatever their individual passions may be.”

Shea Brutinel is pursuing a degree in social work and is part of the Public Service Academy’s Next Generation Service Corps.

“A social worker saved my life, and I’ve seen the good they do in the community. That’s what I aspire to be,” she said.

Jason Mancia said it was school bullying that led him to a degree in criminology and criminal justice.

“I know that feeling about wanting to help people, to improve their situation — regardless of whether I get any benefit,” said Mancia, who is also in Barrett, The Honors College.

But none will have to go at it alone.

Students were inducted into the Community Solutions Cooperative (Co-op), a collective of faculty, students and staff all with a common goal of making the world a better place through innovation in public service.

“I love the idea of all of us being connected. The biggest thing is that you can’t do it alone. It takes so many people,” said Germaine Arnone, who is pursuing her social work degree at ASU’s West campus.

Finding inspiration

The event culminated with inspiring words from Denise Resnik, who was named Community Service Champion. The annual award was started last year to recognize and honor people who have made an impact on the community.

“The real lesson here is the gap in who gets recognized in the realm of public service: people who see a problem and don’t lament it and move on to the next thing. They see a problem and take it upon themselves to solve it,” Koppell said.

“For those of you who doubt whether one person can make a difference — and whether you can take on a significant problem and move the needle — this will change your mind,” he said.

Denise Resnik
Denise Resnik, a community leader and ASU alumna, was honored for her work to promote solutions for individuals with autism.

After graduating from ASU, Resnik embarked on a career in real estate, got married and turned her attention to motherhood. She had a daughter, then a son.

“I counted a girl, a boy, 10 fingers, 10 toes. What I didn’t count on was autism,” said Resnik.

Autism is a developmental disorder characterized by social impairments such as limited communication skills and difficulties forming relationships. At the time of Resnik’s son’s diagnosis, the incidence of autism was 1 in 2,500. Today it is 1 in 68.

“There weren’t a lot of resources then. I poured my heart and soul into trying to help Matt be all he could be,” she said.

She joined a mothers’ support group, noting one table became two, then eventually filled an entire coffee shop.

“It got to a point where we decided we needed to do more than just meet,” she said. “Twenty years ago this year, we formed the Southwest Autism Resource and Research Center. Our goal was to ensure that individuals with autism and their families would be supported throughout their lifetimes.”

Today, the Southwest Autism Resource and Research Center (SARRC) is a global resource for people who are trying to develop better tools for parents and families of people with autism. Their work inspired PBS NewsHour reporters to dub Phoenix the most autism-friendly city in the world.

More recently, Resnik has launched First Place, a community for adults on the autism spectrum. She says it is “a bold vision to ensure that housing options for people with autism and other neurodiversities are as bountiful as they are for everyone else.” Community leaders came together to break ground for the central Phoenix center in December 2016.

Koppell said, “Denise has created a welcoming community that embraces people who are different. It is a community that creates opportunities for others. That’s a public good.”

“The human part is an exceptional individual, who through sheer force of her own will, her own ability to get others excited about doing something important, has been a transformative figure. That, to me, is the essence of what it means to be a community service champion,” he added.

“We present this award at SERVECON because we don’t want anybody in this room to feel that all this preparation and classwork is for some later time. Your ability to serve starts today,” he said. “I am eager to see the journey that you choose for yourselves and how you set about creating public goods that you find important.” 

Heather Beshears

director marketing and communications, College of Public Service and Community Solutions