Pilot turned law professor: Cantu to teach Constitutional law

Associate Professor Edward Cantu joins the UMKC School of Law faculty this fall with expertise in Constitutional law. His research focuses on normative jurisprudence, separation of powers and practices in the federal courts that give rise to systemic constitutional problems.

Cantu graduated from the University of Texas School of Law in 2006 and clerked for the U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez of the Southern District of Texas and for Judge Jennifer W. Elrod of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. He later practiced with  Sutherland, Asbill & Brennan, LLP in Houston before serving as a Westerfield fellow at Loyola New Orleans School of Law.

What attracted you to UMKC and Kansas City?
The other faculty members are not only top-notch, but they share a genuine sense of warmth and intellectual community. The faculty also has genuine and deep roots in the community. It is truly home for many of them, and they invest themselves in the institution in any way necessary to make it the best law school it can be for both the students and the city.

My impression of the law school is that a good portion of the students are interested in going on to not only enter private practice but become public servants or work in the public interest. I savor the idea of teaching students who don’t view classes as merely perfunctory prerequisites to earning a degree, but rather realize that they are undergoing a learning process that will benefit them for the rest of their lives not only personally via intellectual growth, but also professionally as future leaders in the community.

Finally, it never ceases to amaze me how friendly Kansas Citians are. This, combined with the city’s beautiful topography, tree-lined streets, low cost of living and fresh culture makes it a perfect place for me to settle for a fulfilling and productive career as a teacher and scholar.

What expertise in Constitutional Law do you hope to bring to UMKC students?
Constitutional law so dramatically highlights that our nation is a never-ending work in progress. Our most sacred abstract national values are always pushing up against practical necessity and constitutional law is the most common arena for jousting between the two.

Recent decisions bespeak courts’ attempts to craft doctrine in a manner that preserves various exalted principles central to our national political ethos—for example, structural principles such as separation-of-powers and federalism—while allowing the political branches breathing room to solve concrete and immediate national problems. This delicate dance that courts engage in is what makes constitutional law so fascinating to me, and it has inspired my focus on topics such as separation-of-powers and normative jurisprudence.

Tell me about your personal life – what do you like to do outside of work?
I am a native of Orange County, California, and I moved to Texas to begin college in 1994. In 1996 I took a year off from college and drove around the country; that’s when I fell in love with the Midwest. I have spent most of my adult life in Texas, where I attended law school, clerked and practiced.

After college, I attended flight school with the ambition of becoming a commercial pilot. I went from zero flight experience to Certified Flight Instructor in about 13 months. After 9/11, however, the aviation industry’s demand for commercial pilots dried up, forcing me to consider other career paths.

On my first day of law school I knew that law would be a much better fit than aviation and, looking back, I can’t imagine myself flying a jetliner day after day; the idea is romantic, but the job is very routine and mechanical and thus not a good fit for me. I quickly learned to love legal analysis and to shed my initial view of law school as just an avenue to a financially comfortable job. It wasn’t long until I became fixated on the prospect of teaching law.

My non-law-related pastimes are jogging (15-25 miles per week), film (big Terrance Malick fan), reading history (Vietnam War and WWII history in particular) and socio-political commentary (e.g., George Orwell’s non-fiction), motorcycles, trying new restaurants with my wife, spending time with my animals (three cats and a dog) and working with my hands. Regarding the latter, I have renovated houses all by myself; I even re-roofed a house without any assistance several years back. I will never do that again.  

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