Judge Myron H. Thompson reminded University of Alabama School of Law graduates they are following in the footsteps of lawyers who have transformed law in the state, the nation and around the world.
“It cannot be overstated that you law graduates have completed not only one of the finest, top-tiered law schools in the country, but a law school that can unabashedly boast graduating some of the finest lawyers not just in the state of Alabama but in this country,” Thompson said. “Lawyers who have literally changed the nature of the law for this state, this country, and in some regards, even for the world.”
Judge Thompson, Senior Judge, U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama, delivered the commencement address, and the Law School conferred 139 Juris Doctor degrees and six LL.M. degrees Saturday at Coleman Coliseum.
Judge Thompson said Sen. Howell Heflin, who earlier served as Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, reshaped and redefined the line between law and equity in Alabama, and Justice Hugo Black revived a fundamental precept in the notion of freedom in the United States: the freedom to speak.
He observed Judge Sam Pointer is responsible for how lawyers litigate complex litigation, and Michael Figures, one of the Law School’s first African-American graduates, became a formidable figure in Alabama politics and may have been governor of Alabama, had his life not been cut short by illness.
Judge Thompson acknowledged Justice Janie Shores, the first woman justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, wrote a decision affording Alabama women equal rights as property owners in the state, and he recognized Judge Frank M. Johnson, Jr., who opened the door to full equality for African-Americans and perfected the Wyatt standards that are used to treat the mentally ill and the mentally challenged.
“Without question, every woman receiving a law degree in this state this year stands on the shoulders of Justice Shores,” Thompson said. “Every African-American receiving a law degree in the state this year stands on the shoulders of Michael Figures. And all who receive law degrees in the state today stand on the shoulders of Sen. Heflin, Justice Black, Judge Pointer and Judge Johnson.”
In his welcoming remarks, Dean Mark E. Brandon celebrated the achievement of the Class of 2016.
The median LSAT score for the class was 164, and its median collegiate grade-point average was 3.86. Some 47 percent were members of one of the Law School’s four legal journals, while 58 percent participated in at least one of six clinics, training and serving as student lawyers. Thirty-three graduates won individual awards for performance in regional or national moot court competitions or were members of a team that advanced to elimination rounds.
“This is a remarkable class—supremely talented, and well prepared to face the future,” Brandon said.
Angela M. Selvaggio, delivering the valedictory address, said graduates like to think they do everything on their own, and it’s just not true. She thanked family and friends at the ceremony as well as those who could not attend.
“And of course our support system includes the teachers willing to take the time to give us the tools for success in law school and beyond,” she said. “For many of us, one of those influential teachers has been Professor Susan Lyons. Today, we want to make sure that she in particular knows the gratitude we feel for her patience and her guidance.”
Degree candidates were hooded by Kimberly Boone, Director of Legal Writing Program; Cameron Fogle, Legal Writing Lecturer; Grace Lee, Associate Professor of Law in Residence; and Susan Lyons, the Ira Drayton Pruitt, Sr. Professor of Law.
The eight recipients of the Dean M. Leigh Harrison Academic Achievement Award were hooded first. Twenty-four students received the Public Interest Certificate for completing the program’s academic and externship requirements, while 39 students received the Order of the Samaritan honor for performing 50 hours of pro bono legal service and 40 hours of community service during Law School.
A reception honoring graduating students was held immediately following the ceremony on the Camille Wright Cook Plaza in front of the Law School.