of public interest law lure a fisherman
By Robert Brickhouse
Geever quit school at the end of the 11th grade and, like many
others in his small California fishing com- munity, eventually
went to work on the ocean as a commercial fisherman.
But the supply of fish began to dwindle, and the offshore fishing
industry there went into the tank. Geever, then in his mid-30s,
came east to visit his sister and look for work.
been kicking myself for not getting an education as a kid,"
he recalls, so he took some courses at Piedmont Virginia Community
College. Then, "I just got hooked on it."
thinking a lot about the problems of the fishing industry, he
transferred to U.Va. and received his B.A. in economics. By now
set on some kind of public service career, he entered the University's
School of Law, because
"law school seemed to me a way to make a difference."
has never deviated from that goal. Last year, because of his commitment
to public service, he was named the recipient of the school's
first Linda A. Fairstein Public Service Fellowship. This week,
still without a high school diploma, he'll receive a law degree
at age 46.
course work has been intense, he says. In the summers he has worked
with the Charlottesville-Albemarle Legal Aid Society, and in a
low-income housing clinic, and with a lawyer handling civil rights
cases. "It's been rewarding work," he says. "There's
a big part of the population that doesn't understand the law and
doesn't get legal assistance."
has also made time to work as a drug and alcohol detox technician
with a mental health agency and to organize a self-help group
for addicts in a Staunton prison.
Geever's main public service interest remains linked with fishing
and the water. "I'd been around the ocean since I was a little
kid,² he says. This summer he will take a clerkship with the National
Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration in Silver Spring,
Md., where he worked last summer on fisheries law, and he hopes
to be able to continue in a position there or in a related agency.
he says, he would like to be able to help the fishing industry
directly. "In a word, it's in trouble," he said. Fish
populations are declining from over-fishing, pollution and the
impact of development on coastal habitats.
A long-range hope of his is to help mobilize fishing communities
to become more involved in environmental issues to protect their
areas and their work. "This is a valuable resource that's
being depleted. You just assume it will be there forever and now
species are being threatened with extinction."
is happy that the Law School has steadily expanded its offerings
in public interest law and public service opportunities for students.
A student-organized public service conference this year highlighted
numerous public-interest law career paths, from the local to the
national level, that alumni have followed.
the rewards of public service work are not primarily financial,
Geever makes clear. A critical factor enabling him to continue
his studies has been the Law School's offering a low-interest,
long-term loan-assistance program for graduates going into public
press release on The
Rewards of Public Interest Law Lure a Fisherman