Catholic Law School to Focus on Natural Roots of Profession: Gets $50 Million from Pizza Magnate

Article excerpt

The dean of a new Catholic law school said yesterday that an increasing number of law students want to learn the moral and "transcendent" aspects of jurisprudence.

That is why the new Ave Maria School of Law in Ann Arbor, Mich., is being started, said Bernard Dobranski, who is currently dean of Catholic University's Columbus School of Law.

The first class, in fall 2000, will consist of 50 top students. "We are going to be very selective with the first class," Mr. Dobranski said of the nation's 25th Catholic law school. "They will learn that law and morality are not the same, but they are intertwined."

While several Catholic and Protestant law schools recognize the divine roots of law, he said, "the more schools that have a religiously affiliated mission, the better off we are."

The new school, announced last week, will be backed by $50 million from the Ave Maria Foundation founded by Tom Monaghan, founder of Domino's Pizza. He sold the company in December for an estimated $1 billion.

Judge Robert Bork, a former Supreme Court nominee, was the first name to be announced among a faculty that initially will include six to eight scholars.

"They intend to have a Catholic component, so I'll be teaching in other areas," Mr. Bork, who is not Catholic, said yesterday. "What appeals to me is wanting to have a school in the old traditional model. So many of the law schools have become politicized."

In Catholic tradition, natural law is seen as the God-given basis of human rights, for determining right and wrong and for settling matters such as slavery, abortion or euthanasia.

Mr. Bork said that while the Western idea of natural law "is important," it is not relevant to judges, whose job is to interpret the intent of previous jurists. …