LCHS Grad Tackling Tough Topics at UCLA Law Review

Photo courtesy Kathryn Hatch
Quemars Ahmed is the first Muslim law student at UCLA to earn the position as editor-in-chief at the UCLA Law Review.

“It is certainly an interesting time for lawyers,” Quemars Ahmed said. “Although maybe all times are interesting for lawyers?”
Ahmed, a 2009 La Cañada High School graduate, is the editor-in-chief of the UCLA Law Review, the nation’s 5th-ranked scholarly law journal. Known for being hard-working and cool-headed, the ever intellectually curious Ahmed is the first Muslim to lead the law school’s flagship journal since it began publishing in 1953.
“It means something to me only in the sense that it is representative of a larger phenomenon,” Ahmed said. “It’s a personal achievement, too, but … it does provide evidence of the fact that discrimination isn’t taking place [at UCLA] and it normalizes the relationships of other demographics in the law; I take that as a good thing.”
The person who occupies the position atop the masthead is ultimately responsible for the content of the bi-monthly student-run journal, in which legal scholars of various stature hash out fresh arguments on topics that can, in a single issue, range from gun rentals to Chicago-style pensions.
“You know the effect it has on the real world,” Ahmed said. “So even if you have no interest in the field, someone out there does and is shaped by it, or it helps inject a different thought into the debate. That’s important.”
Chief Managing Editor Ashley King said Ahmed was an ideal selection to lead those efforts.
“He’s perfect for the position,” she said. “He’s very level-headed but always is on top of things and he doesn’t let anything small worry him. He puts in thousands of hours — thousands of hours per day — and honestly it’s so impressive because he creates an environment for everyone that’s like, ‘OK, we can do this.’”
After several rounds of careful editing, Ahmed and King are the last ones to see an issue before it’s published. Ahmed also oversees additional online content and a podcast, “Dialectic,” while steering the direction of future issues, including content that will align with a symposium early next year that’s expected to touch on the role that President Donald Trump has played in regard to the rule of law.
“There is a lot of interest from people who want to talk about it and want to read about it,” Ahmed said. “But you sort of have to wait and see what the impact is. Firing the FBI director is certainly a change in the norm. And I’m sure there are some health care law experts who are having to rewrite their textbooks — or maybe not?”
About the only certainty, Ahmed said, is that it’s “an interesting atmosphere.”
Ahmed was born at Verdugo Hills Hospital, the son of immigrants from Pakistan and Iran. His father, Mushtaq, works in food science (he had a hand in designing Baskin-Robbins’ ice cream flavors, Quemars said), and his mother, Katia, is health coordinator with Pasadena Unified School District. Together, they hold a pair of doctorate’s and master’s degrees.
Quemars grew up rooting for L.A. sports teams and regularly watching “60 Minutes” and C-SPAN at home, where debates about any number of pressing matters helped enhance his appreciation for healthy argument.
“He makes sure he listens to every point of view and when he makes the final decision, he doesn’t come to that decision lightly,” Katia Ahmed said. “At home, he’s the same way. Making a decision is not unilateral. We all debate, we argue about it, we have a forum and then we can come to a simple decision — what we’re going to eat.”
Quemars also participated in Youth and Government and the Model U.N. programs with the YMCA and recalls relishing his time in Marina Chahine’s government class at LCHS during the 2008 election.
Before enrolling at UCLA Law, he graduated from Seton Hall University, where he double-majored in international relations and history. He opted to pursue a law degree, he said, because it’s versatile, “the best way to go and combine the academic with the practical.”
Ahmed has a particular attraction to constitutional law, but he’s keeping his options open. He said he’s heartened by what he has seen from law school peers who aren’t interested primarily in pursuing jobs with high-paying corporate firms.
“At UCLA in particular, we have a lot of students who are very passionate about the issues, who really want to make a difference in the world,” said Ahmed, who witnessed many of his friends providing services to those in legal limbo when he went to Los Angeles International Airport with Katia to join protests following the president’s initial travel ban in January. (Last month, the Supreme Court allowed parts of President Trump’s travel ban to go into effect and agreed to hear oral arguments on the order this fall.)
“It speaks to a broader thing I’ve been noticing with the legal profession, which is that it used to be that lawyers are the butt of jokes, you know, ‘Money-hungry lawyers and ambulance-chasers,’” Ahmed said. “Now lawyers are sort of like folk heroes in many parts of the country, going to airports, helping the oppressed and the downtrodden. So it’s really interesting to see the transformation.”
As editor, he’s tapped into that energy.
“You have to be passionate about what the law can do to be on Law Review and want to put in the effort,” said King, the journal’s managing editor. “The Law Review is a way where you can learn about what is the cutting edge of law, what is the cutting edge of how do we help people the most? In a small way, it’s just another way to fulfill being an advocate.”
“It certainly is a unique time,” Ahmed said. “As far as what to make of it, I’m thinking of all the opportunities there are where people can make a difference and make an impact and that is really interesting.”

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