Paula Casey planned to be a lawyer for as long as she could remember, even though her mother had other ideas.
“My mother wanted me to become a teacher, so that when I had children, I would have the same holidays as they did,” Casey said.
Casey retired June 30 after spending nearly four decades as a formidable attorney, dedicated professor, and proficient dean. She most recently held the position of interim vice provost for research and dean of the graduate school at UALR.
“Paula is well-known and respected by her peers both on and off campus,” UALR Chancellor Joel E. Anderson said. “She was highly regarded as chief counsel and legislative director for U.S. Sen. Dale Bumpers and as the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas. Then she topped off her career in two deanships — at the UALR Bowen School of Law and the UALR Graduate School. We are truly indebted to her for her service.”
Having attended college on a debate scholarship, Casey earned a bachelor’s degree in speech from East Central University in 1973. While attending law school at the University of Arkansas School of Law at Fayetteville, Casey realized she was in the minority.
“About 10 percent of my law school class were women,” she said. “It changed very fast, but there was always the feeling that you would let down the other women if you didn’t know the answer when you were called on in class. It seems like another world now.”
Fresh out of law school in 1977, her first job in the law profession was as a staff attorney for what is now Legal Services of Arkansas. She worked on cases involving social security, disability, food stamps, domestic relations, and child custody for low-income residents of Arkansas.
“That was the toughest money I ever earned,” she said.
She spent the majority of her career teaching legal skills and serving as the trial team coach, and, for many years, was its longest-serving faculty member. From 1986 to 1991, she also served as the associate dean of the law school.
“Paula Casey is an Arkansas gem who enjoyed a career to which we should all aspire,” said Michael Hunter Schwartz, dean of the Bowen School of Law. “She was an outstanding public servant, a tenacious U.S. attorney, a beloved colleague, and a wildly successful academic administrator. She is a person who always speaks her mind, and her incisive insights make all of us at UALR better.”
Becoming a United States attorney
While on leave from UALR, Casey served as chief counsel and legislative assistant to U.S. Sen. Dale Bumpers from 1991 to 1993.
She was appointed as the United States attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas by President Bill Clinton in 1993 and served in that capacity until 2000.
One of her most famous cases landed her several television appearances, including, most recently, “Swamp Murders” in 2014. The case involved the 1999 conviction of , who were convicted of racketeering, conspiracy, and murder.
The men plotted to overthrow the federal government and set up a whites-only nation.
“It was going to be a polygamist society so they could populate it. They were convicted of killing three people in Pope County, Arkansas,” Casey recalled.
Kehoe and Lee were convicted of the 1996 murders of William Mueller, an Arkansas gun dealer, his wife, Nancy, and her 8-year-old daughter, Sarah Powell. It was the first death penalty case in the federal courts of the Eastern District of Arkansas.
During Casey’s time as a U.S. attorney, the FBI recognized her four times for special achievement and in 1997, the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force gave her a meritorious achievement award.
Dedication to teaching
Casey rejoined the Bowen faculty in 2001, when she began coaching the school’s trial competition team, including the squad that advanced to the championship rounds of the National Trial Competition in 2009.
One of her most rewarding experiences was serving as the leader of the UALR Trial Team. Casey spent countless hours, holidays, and weekends preparing law students for competitions and mock trials.
She valued being accessible to her students, encouraging them to stop by her office whenever they had a question. This availability encouraged many former students to keep in contact with her long after they left school.
Casey encouraged free thinking and brainstorming sessions to work through issues that might occur in a trial.
“At the law school, the part of my job that I liked the most was the practice trials in the second Lawyering Skills course,” she said. “In that course, where students learn by doing, you see them get better. You see that they are learning, and you give the students feedback so they can develop professionally.”
A roller coaster ride
Casey’s colleagues describe her as a person who likes to walk around the office in pearls and stocking feet, hates wearing shoes, and loves to give people nicknames.
Tammie Cash, UALR director of research and sponsored programs, described the last three years of working with Paula as a “roller coaster ride.”
“The highs are always exhilarating,” Cash said. “Paula has made it so we can excel in ways we haven’t been able to in the past. And when you get to those inevitable valleys, Paula takes you right back to the highs.”
Before she left, Casey hired Crystal Hunnicut, research compliance officer. She got to work with her one month before Casey’s retirement.
“I can’t believe she is leaving so soon,” Hunnicut said. “She was a great boss and the greatest person to work for.”
The end of a long career
After working as one of Bowen’s longest-serving faculty members, Casey spent the last four years of her career at UALR in two dean positions.
In 2012, Casey was named the interim dean of Bowen law school, becoming the first woman to serve in that capacity. She retired as the interim vice provost for research and dean of the Graduate School, a position she held since 2013.
“The progress achieved by the Graduate School and Office of Research and Sponsored Programs under her leadership has been remarkable,” said Dr. Zulma Toro, provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs. “She is an effective manager who enjoys solving problems and fixing processes.”
Some of the achievements under Casey’s leadership include a new approach for building UALR’s graduate student application pool, implementation of a completely paperless application and admission process to the Graduate School, and the publishing of the first magazine highlighting research accomplishments across UALR.
In retirement, Casey plans to spend more time with her husband of 35 years, Gil Glover, a retired attorney, and their two dogs, Pepper and Beau.