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Cathy Silak named Concordia law school dean


BOISE, Idaho (AP) A private Lutheran university has named former Idaho Supreme Court Justice Cathy Silak dean of the law school it expects to open in Boise in 2010.

The board that governs Concordia University in Portland, Ore., picked Silak, one of only two women to serve on Idaho's high court and the first female judge appointed to the Idaho Court of Appeals, from among 50 candidates.

"Cathy rose to the top pretty quickly," Concordia President Charles Schlimpert said Wednesday in Boise.

Silak offers a familiar public face to plans by the private Oregon university to open a law school here in two years. Part of her job will be to help nail down the rest of the $7 million Concordia needs before it can enroll students.

"She's extraordinarily passionate about starting this law school," said Concordia Vice President Gary Withers.

Silak, 58, was on the high court for seven years, losing her seat in 2000. She served on the bench with former Idaho Supreme Court Chief Justice Linda Copple Trout, who is backing the University of Idaho's plans to expand its law school in Boise.

Trout is a graduate of the Idaho College of Law and chairs the UI law school advisory committee.

The Moscow-based university wants to expand its law school by adding a full-fledged branch campus 300 miles south in the state capital. Concordia announced late last year that it wanted to open a three-year law school in Boise.

The Idaho Board of Education significantly scaled back the UI proposal to include only third-year law students and agreed to ask the Legislature for the $1 million the university will initially need to expand at a Boise branch.

At its August meeting, board member Rod Lewis said he couldn't tell whether the plan was geared toward improving the quality of legal education in Idaho, or being the first law school in the Boise market.

"We do not want to make this a competition," Schlimpert said.

Concordia, a private liberal arts college, can act more quickly than a public university that needs approval from the state, Schlimpert said.

Silak most recently worked as president of the Idaho Community Foundation in Boise, which helps secure grants to fund philanthropic projects statewide.

Concordia has $1.5 million committed to the law school and wants to get about $3 million more by early next year. Part of Silak's job will be to secure the total $7 million needed to open the school.

"This is one of the largest metropolitan areas in the country without a law school," said Silak, who has lived in Boise region for 25 years. "It's just a great setting."