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Roger Groot: At a Glance

  • Joined the Washington and Lee School of Law in 1973.
  • Spent six years in the Marine Corps, which included a tour in Vietnam.
  • Studied law at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
  • One of the nation’s top criminal law experts; is an outspoken opponent of the death penalty: “I’m opposed to it in all circumstances.”

On Why He Chose W&L

“I grew up in a small town in Texas. My wife grew up in a small town in Kentucky. We’re very comfortable in small towns and rural environments. I like to do outdoors things when I can. In fact, I deer hunt between the Law School and my house. I can stop off on my way home for an hour and a half. You can’t do that in Philadelphia or New York.”

On the Death Penalty

“Whatever you think morally or religiously, you finally come down to the fact that the death penalty never depends on the homicide or the way in which it was committed. It ends up being a question of the victim’s family, the election cycle or the location. The most death-prone jurisdictions, for example, are suburban areas. That has been proven beyond any dispute. There is a fair body of evidence that the states which retain the death penalty actually have higher homicide rates than the states which have abolished it. I don’t think anybody argues seriously anymore that the death penalty is about deterrence. It’s more about retribution. Even if retribution is moral, it still ought to be consistent. And it’s not.”

On The Key To Teaching Law

“There are people who will say I have not accomplished this, but I think the key is to hold students’ intellectual feet to the fire without being mean; force them to dig deeply into the material without demeaning them. When I went to law school, demeaning the students was an art form. I don’t think that’s necessary. While I try not to do it, I’m certainly going to be honest with a student. I will occasionally tell one, ‘You’re not only wrong, you’re dead wrong.’ I don’t want anybody wasting my time or anybody else’s time.”

On The One Thing He Hopes Students Take Away From His Classroom

“You’ve got to work harder than the other guy. It’s that simple.”

On Retirement

“I’d like to hike the Appalachian Trail again. I did it the first time in 1991. I’d like to be able to make more than one hurried trip every fall to South Dakota to pheasant hunt. But you can’t do that full time. And momma’s already figured out the twice-as-much-husband, half-as-much-money routine.

“A rumor about my retirement has been going around for about five years. I don’t know anything about it.”

On The Future of W&L

“What concerns me most is the loss of interaction between students and faculty. That’s our strong suit, our selling point, and it’s what makes life livable around here for the students. I’d hate to see us lose that. All change isn’t bad, but you must try to hang on to the good stuff.”


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