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Benjamin Barton: Community Volunteer, Harry Potter Fan, Amateur Chef

Barton marches with College of Law students during a Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade.

Barton marches with College of Law students during a Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade.

At UT: Benjamin Barton, the Helen and Charles Lockett Distinguished Professor of Law, has been at UT since 2001. Barton is also a research fellow in the Center for the Study of Social Justice. He was the director of clinical programs from 2007 to 2011, during which he oversaw the college’s clinical and externship programs. Barton also accompanies his students in doing volunteer legal work. “Every other week when school is in session, a group of students and myself go to Knoxville Area Rescue Ministries and help with legal problems,” he said. “It’s great practice for them as they get to interview folks and deal with a scale of problems, from small to large.”

Why he chose this field: During his undergraduate career at Haverford College, Barton was a religious studies major. He knew he wanted to continue his education but was torn between getting his doctorate in religious studies and becoming a professor or going to law school. “So I went to law school and I got to be a professor anyway,” he said. “I’ve always had a love of teaching.”

Muggle matters: Barton is known around UT and in his field of research for his passion for Harry Potter. He actually has a publication, “Harry Potter and the Half-Crazed Bureaucracy,” which compares the political issues in the plot of the Harry Potter series to the law. “That’s the most read piece of my career,” he said. “Seven years later and I’m still receiving emails about it. My youngest daughter and I actually just went to see the newest movie and swapped theories.”

Barton proves his handstand ability

Barton proves his handstand ability.

Favorite UT moment: “I used to teach in the law school clinic, where students represent clients and faculty oversee their work. We had a felony DUI case where we were convinced the defendant was innocent. This resulted in an all-day jury trial that we won. It was a pretty intense experience and incredible to witness the students’ success in the courtroom.”

Calming tactics for students: “We have an eight-year-old lab mix named Bobo,” said Barton. “I’ll occasionally bring him into class—at the beginning of the semester and again during finals—to calm down the first-years.”

To unwind from his day: “Well, first, I start with a glass of wine,” he said. “I also enjoy cooking and do most of the cooking in our house.” He also runs, swims, and practices yoga.

Most folks don‘t know: “I can do a handstand. And I’ve been gluten free since 1975.”

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