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Jane Aiken will step away as the dean of the Wake Forest University School of Law to work with advocacy group regarding reproductive rights

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Jane Aiken, the dean of the Wake Forest University School of Law, will step away from her position July 31, the university said Thursday.

Aiken will take a research leave to work on issues regarding reproductive rights as a consulting counsel with National Advocates for Pregnant Women, a nonprofit organization in New York City, WFU said.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s June 23 ruling eliminated constitutional protections for abortions. The court’s ruling means that legislators in North Carolina and other states will be in a position to shape the future of abortion access.

Abortions are still legal in North Carolina.

Following her research leave, Aiken plans to return to the Wake Forest faculty as a university professor, the university said.

“Dean Aiken led the Wake Forest School of Law during a tumultuous time for legal education,” WFU President Susan Wente and Provost Michele Gillespie said in a statement.

“With her expert guidance, the school of law successfully adapted to continuing changes in the industry and changes to the law school experience forced by the pandemic,” Wente and Gillespie said. “We are immensely grateful for Dean Aiken’s service to Wake Forest and our broader community.”

During Aiken’s tenure, the law school enhanced its enrollment, job placement, bar passage among its students, rankings and philanthropic support, Wake Forest said.

During her research leave, Aiken will finish her book, “Motherhood and the Law: Enforcing Selflessness,” the university said.

Nell Jessup Newton, a professor of law at the University of Notre Dame Law School, has been named interim dean of the WFU law school and will begin Aug. 1, WFU said.

Newton is a lawyer, legal scholar and educator with more than 20 years of leadership experience in legal education, Wake Forest said.

Newton served as dean at the Notre Dame Law School from 2009 to 2019, building the school’s curricular strengths in business, international law and intellectual property, WFU said.

“Professor Newton is well equipped to lead during this important time of assessment and transition for the law school,” Gillespie said.

Newton has held many national positions in the legal education community, including the American Bar Association, the Association of American Law Schools, and the Law School Admission Council.

Newton is a prominent scholar of Native American law and the editor in chief of Cohen’s Handbook of Federal Indian Law, the only treatise on the subject, WFU said.

During the 2021-2022 academic year, Newton served as interim dean at University of Miami School of Law, Wake Forest said. While in that role, she strengthened the law school’s admissions and career development services.

“(The) Wake Forest School of Law is a remarkable place devoted to the best in legal education,” Newton said. “I am honored to lead the school during this transitional year and look forward to working closely with the excellent staff, faculty and students.”

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