IN THEIR ELEMENT
IN THEIR ELEMENT
Professor Dan Capra in his office
Photos by Chris Taggart
Professor Dan Capra typography with Trophy

Professor Dan Capra

People like to say that it’s tough to get things done in Washington, D.C., these days. That’s not the case for Dan Capra, Philip Reed Professor of Law. As reporter to the U.S. Judicial Conference’s Advisory Committee on Evidence Rules since 1996, he has been responsible for 20 substantive amendments to the Federal Rules of Evidence—including, most recently, more regulations for expert witnesses. “We’re trying to limit overstatement of forensic opinions, like saying a bullet is an exact match to a gun, when guns are not unique,” said Capra. “Many defendants have gone to jail unjustly because of this kind of overstated expert testimony.”

Since joining the faculty in 1981, Capra has helped put Fordham Law on the map in a variety of ways. Along with his widely respected scholarship on the rules of evidence, he has influenced many students, both in the classroom and as the first faculty director of the Center for Judicial Events & Clerkships (CJEC), assisting graduates in getting clerkships. “When you help someone obtain a clerkship, you really change their life,” said Capra. “Looking back, that’s one of the things I feel happiest about. I’m still close with many of these students, and I take pride in their accomplishments.” Capra is stepping down from his role at the CJEC this academic year but leaves behind a long record of service to and results for graduates.

Capra’s pride in his students—and his work—is evident from the plaques, certificates, personal notes, and other meaningful objects that adorn his sunny eighth-floor office on the Lincoln Center campus. Here, he gives a tour of his years at Fordham Law via the memorabilia on his shelves.

—Paula Derrow

Drama king: (title image) “I went to St. Agnes High School in St. Paul, Minnesota. In 1970, I won the Catholic state prize for dramatic presentation. I was the only one from my school there, and I did some selections from Spoon River Anthology. The inscription reads, ‘Serious interpretation.’ This brings back memories!”

Federal rule 502
Privileged material: “Unlike other rules of evidence, Federal Rule 502, signed in 2008, about waiver of privilege, had to be directly enacted by Congress. It gives parties more protection if, in the discovery process, they mistakenly disclose privileged information; that saves a lot of money. Because I wrote it and helped get it through, they gave me a copy, signed by President George W. Bush, House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and Senator Robert Byrd [of West Virginia], with the shaky signature.”
Class of 2007 future law clerks
Clerks galore: “The year 2007 was my first working to help get students judicial clerkships, and it was a good one for Fordham Law. We got the most clerkships we’d ever gotten up until that point. We celebrated with a party, and Suzanne [Endrizzi, assistant dean for the CJEC] gave me this framed list of all the students who got clerkships that year.”
Books on shelf and 'Federal Rules of Evidence Manual'
Tome home: “This shelf is filled with things I’ve written: treatises, casebooks …. I’m probably most proud of the five-volume Federal Rules of Evidence Manual, but students also like the blue casebook, Evidence: The Objection Method; I did a lot of work on that, too. Then there’s The Sinatra Treasures, which my wife of 44 years gave me as a present. I’ve always been a big Sinatra fan.”
Letter from Judge Jack Weinstein
Duly noted: “Judge Jack Weinstein [of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York] was the most famous evidence scholar ever; he was on the original committee that wrote the Federal Rules of Evidence. He was a very busy guy, but had this penchant for writing notes to people to pep them up. He sent this one to me, and I’m going to keep it forever.”
Hua Xia Hotel nametag
Far East Influencer: “I’ve been to China a few times, once with the late Judge Leonard Sand [of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York] and then again to talk about the Federal Rules of Evidence at China University of Political Science and Law around 2004. I gave a speech about how the rules might be promulgated by the Chinese system.”
Collection of bobbleheads
Bobbling along: “That bobblehead (second from right) is supposed to be me—another gift from Suzanne Endrizzi during my first year working on clerkships. The rest are from [Brooklyn] Nets games that I went to with my son. The last game we went to was a debacle for the team, but we’re still big fans.”