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Campus News
Your faculty and staff news since 1965
Current Issue: January 21, 2003
Volume 38, Number 12


UNM Professor of Law James W. Ellis has been named “Lawyer of the Year” by the National Law Journal (NLJ).

The NLJ selects recipients for the award based on an attorney’s “impact on the law and society.” The 2001 recipient was U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft.

In February, Ellis successfully argued before the United States Supreme Court that the nation agreed executing people with mental retardation violated the Eighth Amendment prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. The court had ruled in 1989 that those executions were constitutional. Ellis represented Virginia death row inmate Daryl Atkins in the case Atkins v. Virginia.

The NLJ noted that Ellis not only convinced justices that a national consensus existed, he helped build it through his writing on mental health and the law, through his work with organizations such as the American Association on Mental Retardation and The ARC of the U.S., through numerous appearances before legislative and congressional committees and his prior friend-of-the court briefs filed in 13 U.S. Supreme Court cases.

While Ellis was working on an American Bar Association project in the 1980s to revise criminal standards for the mentally ill, the capital defense bar took notice and contacted him for help with their cases.

The clients, Ellis told NJR, “were individuals whose understanding was, in fact, so limited that it was inconceivable they deserved death.”

Ellis credits the AAMR and The ARC, in particular, for leading the campaign to ban the death penalty for the retarded in the United States, in addition to attorneys and others who long trumpeted the cause.

The June Supreme Court decision, the NLJ noted, was “the culmination of 30 years of his work on behalf of the mentally retarded and mentally ill persons in the civil and criminal justice systems.”

Ellis has been at UNM since 1976.


Professor Norman F. Roderick, Department of Chemical and Nuclear Engineering, has been named American Institute of Electrical Engineers (IEEE) Grade of Fellow.

Roderick was named for his contributions to the modeling and understanding of high energy density plasmas. The IEEE Grade of Fellow is conferred by the Board of Directors upon a person with an extraordinary record of accomplishments in any IEEE field of interest.

A brief citation is issued to new fellows describing their accomplishments and the total number selected in any one year does not exceed one-tenth percent of the total voting Institute membership.

Roderick joined UNM full time in 1982 after he retired from the U.S. Air Force.

His present research interests are in theoretical and computational plasma physics related to producing and understanding high energy density plasmas, and the application of plasmas for space power and propulsion.


Anthropology Professor Lawrence Guy Straus’ prehistoric archeological research in El Miron Cave in northern Spain with Universidad de Cantabria Professor Manuel Gonzalez Morales will soon be featured in a full-color article in the “Athena Review” and in the National Geographic Magazine Spain Edition.

Straus, editor of the Journal of Anthropological Research, was also recently featured in a BBC TV program on the controversy concerning the peopling of the Americas.

Straus considers work at El Miron Cave one of his major projects in his 30 years of archeological research.

He has received another grant to continue El Miron Cave excavations from the L.S.B. Leakey Foundation.

Past work at El Miron has been funded by the Fundacion Marcelino Botin headquartered in Santander, Spain, with support from the National Science Foundation, the National Geographic Society, L.S.B. Leakey Foundation, UNM and the Spanish and Cantabrian Governments.

Thousands of sediment samples and hundreds of thousands of artifacts have been uncovered at El Miron.

Straus, Gonzalez and their team of researchers have generated 51 radiocarbon dates from El Miron.

UNM undergraduate and/or graduate students have participated in the excavations every year since 1996. Straus has conducted excavations and surveys in Spain, France, Portugal and Belgium almost every year since 1972.