May 2015 Features

Law & Order

by Molly Petrilla

Law_01_cop_dogTHE COP
It was late 2003. Anan Chiang ’01 had just returned to the U.S. after two years teaching English in Beijing, and she was trying to figure out what to do next.

“I knew I wanted to make a difference,” she says. But she wasn’t sure how. Then her brother had an idea: What about joining the airport police? Chiang looked into it and liked what she found. Now she’s been working as a cop for the Los Angeles Airport Police for nearly 10 years.

As opposed to local police agencies, airport police officers often work with international passengers, respond to calls for service, work with other law enforcement agencies to counter anti-terrorism, and enforce federal mandates.

She credits her background in East Asian studies—the major she chose at Bryn Mawr—with “allowing me to go out to welcome people from around the world. I can better understand their culture.”

Before she began policing the sixth-busiest airport in the world, Chiang went through a grueling training process. Her police academy experience was similar to military boot camp. For approximately six months, she studied shooting, tactics, and arrest and control; memorized state and federal laws; and learned about communicating with the public.

“Once you’re a police officer, it’s not just a 9-to-5 job, it’s not just a career,” she adds. “It changes your life. It changes every aspect of how you view things, and how you interact with people. I like to think that being a police officer has made me a better person. It’s made me more accepting of people from different cultures and backgrounds.”

In her free time, Chiang takes the opportunity to help others as a volunteer K9 Search and Rescue handler. After three years of training, she and her dog—a Weimaraner named Rocky—became certified with the California Rescue Dog Association and Los Angeles Search Dogs, a branch of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

Law_02_nbTHE D.A.
Last year the Elkhart County Prosecutor’s Office in Indiana filed approximately a thousand misdemeanor cases in Superior Court 5—and deputy prosecutor Shelley Gupta ’09 handled all of them.

Gupta appears in court at least twice each week to prosecute on behalf of Elkhart County, with cases that range from operating while intoxicated, disorderly conduct, and battery to criminal mischief, marijuana possession, alcohol consumption by a minor, and resisting law enforcement.

“I really like what I do,” she says. “It’s diverse, it’s challenging, it’s fast-paced. I learn a lot from taking the harder cases to trial. The law is constantly changing in the area of criminal law, and it’s interesting to keep up with that.”

Gupta didn’t plan to become a criminal prosecutor, but a summer internship at the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office in Indianapolis, Indiana, changed that. Then a law student at Ohio Northern University Pettit College of Law, she worked in the office’s domestic violence unit and managed a full caseload. She returned to school that fall and began to study criminal law. In January 2013, shortly after passing the bar, she joined the Elkhart County Prosecutor’s Office.

In her current work, Gupta says she often draws on her experience as a philosophy major at Bryn Mawr. “There’s a distinct way that philosophy majors write and structure their arguments and the logic they use,” she says. “The way I learned to think as a philosophy major is how I structure my questions and arguments in trials: You have a conclusion you want to reach, and you have to show every step along the way to get to that conclusion so that the jury understands what happened.”
She hopes to work on felony trials for her office soon and would eventually like to prosecute at the federal level. “It will take time to get there,” Gupta adds, “but I’ll keep trying until I do.”

In her 20 years with the Philadelphia Prison System, Blanche Carney, M.S.S. ’97, has seen all sorts of reactions to incarceration: people who boil with rage, people who give up, people who wrestle with serious drug or alcohol addictions.

Whatever the situation, it’s Carney’s job to help. As the system’s deputy commissioner for restorative and transitional services, she develops and manages programs for the city’s six prisons—classes and training opportunities that span vocational work, literacy, parenting, anger management, and life skills. She also makes sure inmates connect with the specific services that can help them most.

“It’s our goal to have people return better than they came in,” she says. “Prison isn’t just about someone being incarcerated. You want them to return with a different outlook on life. We want as many inmates as possible to take advantage of the programs and services we offer.”

Carney started as a foster care social worker in the early 1990s. Several of the children she worked with had parents in prison, and “I began to see a link,” she says. “If you could work with the incarcerated parent, it would have a positive outcome on the child. That’s what really drew me to this.”

She joined the Philly prison system as a social worker in 1995 and, two years later, earned a master’s in social services from Bryn Mawr. In her courses at the Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research, Carney learned one of her most-valued tenets: Meet people where they are. “You can’t make someone do something they aren’t ready for,” she says. “You need to acknowledge where they are, present options to them, then let them make their choice.”

During her time with the Philly system, Carney has added new services and expanded existing ones. The prisons now offer video visitations and a program through which graduate-student interns provide pre- and post-incarceration case-management services—something inmates wouldn’t otherwise receive.

She says deciding which services to introduce is the most challenging part of her work. “Corrections is evolving,” she adds, “and social work plays an important role in that.”

Law_04_nbTHE JUDGE
At just seven years old, Ilana Rovner ’60 knew she wanted to “do good” someday by working in the legal system.

In 1938, her father left Latvia to escape the Holocaust; a year later, when Rovner was just 13 months old, she and her mother followed. “My father would explain to me that had the different countries followed their laws—followed their constitutions, been democratic—this wouldn’t have happened, and the people who could have and should have kept it from happening were lawyers,” Rovner says. “I started to believe that lawyers could help the world, and that feeling never left me.”

When Rovner graduated from Bryn Mawr in 1960, she was one of two students in her class to pursue a J.D. She took a six-year break after law school to start a family, then passed the bar. But finding a job was another matter. Jobs for women were so scarce, she says, that students who graduated at the top of her law school class worked as legal secretaries rather than attorneys.

“At Bryn Mawr, we were told we could do anything, we could be anything,” she adds. “What we were not told was how hard that would be.”

Then Rovner had “a wonderful thing happen to me,” as she describes it. She went to a dinner party one night and sat next to a federal judge, who wound up offering her a job as his law clerk. A year later, she was working as an assistant U.S. attorney in the Northern District of Illinois.

She continued to climb the legal ranks from there and was appointed a federal judge for the Northern District of Illinois in 1984. In 1992, Rovner became a judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals’ Seventh Circuit. She was the first woman to ever hold that post, and she continues in that role today.

In spite of its many challenges—the thousand pages of reading each week, the weight of making decisions that determine people’s futures—Rovner says she loves everything about her work.

“When I believe that I am really doing justice,” she says, “I am a very happy person.”

Photographs by Ryan Rickett, Megan E. Doherty, Kate McCann.