Brazilian Visitors Learn about U.S. Constitution, Federal Law


About sixteen students and faculty from Brazil recently visited Washington University School of Law to learn more about the U.S. Constitution, the federal system of government, and the school’s role in the local legal community. The students all attend Unisinos Law School-Universidade do Vale do Rio dos Sinos, a private university in southern Brazil.  

The delegation of the Brazilian students and faculty was arranged by alumna Miriam Schaeffer, LLM ’01, who teaches at Unisinos; Professor Bruce La Pierre; and Senior Lecturer Leigh Greenhaw.  

At the law school, the Brazilian students attended several classes; studied the Constitutional implications of the prisoners’ rights case of Kaden v. Slykhuis, in which the law school’s  Appellate Practice Clinic had represented the plaintiff and prevailed, and discussed the significance of Scott v. Sanford for U.S. federalism. 

Outside of the law school, they visited the St. Louis County Jail and the Courthouse, where they observed jury selection. They also visited the Federal Courthouse downtown, where they met with Judge Jean Hamilton, JD ’71, of the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Missouri; Robin Weinberger, Deputy Clerk of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit; U.S. Attorney, Richard Callahan; and Assistant U.S. Attorney, Tom Albus.  

Additionally, the group had opportunities to meet informally with the law school community through pizza with students and dinner at Greenhaw’s home. 

Finally, they got a surprise lesson on the downside of American politics—their planned visit to the Old Courthouse in downtown St. Louis was canceled because of the recent government shutdown.  

“Many of them thought that the government employees were on strike,” said Schaeffer, who also teaches an intersession class at law school. “I had to explain to them that it was not a strike, which is very common in Brazil. Their reaction was interesting because they could not understand how an employer can simply say, ‘I cannot pay you so you don’t need to work—stay home until you can come back and get paid.’ In Brazil, you get paid, even when on strike.”