Justice O'Connor to address law graduates

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor (ret.), for whom ASU's College of Law was renamed in 2006, will deliver the convocation address to members of the class of 2012 on May 3.

The ceremony is set to begin at 1:30 p.m., in Gammage Auditorium, on ASU’s Tempe campus, and a reception will follow in the Steptoe & Johnson Rotunda in Armstrong Hall.

A total of 209 graduates will receive Juris Doctor degrees, another 11 graduates will be awarded Master of Laws degrees, and 13 students will graduate with Master of Legal Studies degrees.

The College of Law is bestowing special honors on more than 100 graduating students in a variety of categories – from excellence in constitutional law studies, business law and trial advocacy, outstanding service, achievement and interest in federal practice and advancement of women in the legal profession, to superior scholarship and leadership, merit in oral advocacy and moot court competition and dedication to pro bono work.

“These students, including the recipients of the four premier awards given by the law school, are emblematic of the intelligence, stewardship and compassion of the class of 2012,” said Douglas Sylvester, dean of the law school.

Among the class of 2012, 83 graduates are being recognized for their pro bono service. The College of Law has nearly 20 student-led pro bono groups that provide students opportunities to gain experience and work in public service.

“In all ways, from the superior theoretical training they receive in the classroom to the literally hundreds of opportunities to gain practical legal skills, our students are exceptionally prepared to practice law,” Sylvester said. “We are so proud of this class and have great confidence in their futures. Students like these are what make this the world-class institution that it is.”

Premier student award recipients

The premier awards presented at graduation are the John S. Armstrong Award, the Strouse Prize, the Mary M. Schroeder Public Interest Prize and the Carey/Armstrong Prize for Achievement in Public Service.

Allison Clemency will receive the John S. Armstrong Award, which honors Armstrong, an Arizona Legislator who introduced the bill that established Arizona’s first institution of higher learning, the Tempe Normal School (forerunner of ASU). The award is given by the law faculty to a student whose strong academic performance best mirrors the law school’s excellence and values.

“The Armstrong Award reflects the high standards of excellence set by the Armstrong family and honors one of the true legends and founders of this state and university,” Sylvester said. “Receiving the Armstrong Award is more than just an honor for achievement in law school – it forever links that student to the greatest traditions of this state.”

Clemency, who was an editor for the Arizona State Law Journal, externed for a federal appeals judge and worked in the college’s Civil Justice Clinic.

“Allison has shined throughout her time at the College of Law, achieving high marks in every class,” Sylvester said. “Every faculty member has been impressed by her intellect and academic abilities. I am certain the Armstrong family will see that Allison possesses the qualities that the Armstrong Award honors.”

The Strouse Prize is given annually in memory of Daniel Strouse, a professor and former executive director of the law school’s Center for Law, Science & Innovation (LSI), who died in 2007 after a battle with cancer. The prize, established by John Shufeldt, a 2005 alumnus of the College of Law, honors an outstanding LSI student.

“Dan Strouse was a tremendous teacher and beloved colleague,” Sylvester said. “His strong dedication to teaching the next generation of lawyers in health law and emerging technologies is ably reflected in the Strouse Prize. Every recipient of that award should know they are being truly honored by being associated with Dan.”

This year’s Strouse Prize recipient is Jason Burgoyne, an LSI Scholar who interned at Arizona Technology Enterprise, participated in LSI’s Military Technologies and Nanotechnology research clusters, and was a fellow in ASU’s Security and Defense Systems Initiative (SDSI).

“Jason’s work with SDSI – particularly in helping to organize and contributing to the success of a conference on drones that was co-hosted by LSI and our Center for Law and Global Affairs at the New America Foundation in Washington, D.C. – was invaluable to our centers,” Sylvester said. “That, and his work towards an LSI certificate, propelled him to the top of the prize list.”

The Mary M. Schroeder Public Interest Prize honors the former Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and is awarded to a student who has committed to practice public-interest law after graduation and admission to the Bar.

Award recipient Kevin Heade is a former middle-school teacher on the Navajo Nation who during law school was a fellow in local public defender offices, clerked for the National Whistleblowers Center and was a summer public-interest fellow.

“Everything Kevin has done at law school has been focused on serving the underserved,” Sylvester said. “He has demonstrated a tremendous commitment to working in public interest, and through the variety of curricular and extracurricular projects he has undertaken, we have great confidence that he will build a career serving the underserved. We wish him all the best as he begins his work with the Maricopa County Office of the Public Defender.”

The Carey/Armstrong Prize for Achievement in Public Service is given to the student who makes the greatest contribution to public service during his or her time in law school.

The award, presented by the W. P. Carey Foundation and J. Samuel Armstrong IV, will be presented to Amy Powell, whose lengthy list of public service includes an externship with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a clerkship with the Capital Habeas Unit of the Federal Public Defender in California, an internship with The Alliance for Children’s Rights and extensive pro bono work.

“Amy has among the highest number of pro bono hours of any graduating student in recent history, a tremendous feat at a law school whose students annually provide more than 100,000 free hours of legal and law-related services,” Sylvester said. “In particular, she has shown a passion for working with juveniles and on issues in juvenile law. She leads by example and is sure to continue to do so into her career.”

Other outstanding students

Claudia Gonzalez Jimenez will receive the Janet S. Mueller Oral Advocacy Award, which is given for excellence in oral advocacy and moot court competition. Gonzalez was a finalist at the Moot Court Oral Argument Competition in 2010 and at the Jenckes Closing Argument Moot Court Competition in 2009. In 2011, Gonzalez and her teammate won first place in brief writing and second in overall oral advocacy at the Hispanic National Bar Association Moot Court Competition.

“I came into law school not really thinking of myself as a public speaker, but my involvement in moot court and other things has truly inspired me to be an oral advocate and made me more confident in that area,” she said.

She and her family emigrated from Mexico when she was three years old. She attended Emory University in Atlanta, where she double-majored in Political Science and Spanish Literature. She also co-founded a chapter of the Latina sorority, Lamda Theta Alpha.

“Knowledge is power,” she said. “The more you know, the more empowered you are.”

Bedar Fars Aziz, who attended the College of Law on a scholarship from the Kurdistan Regional Government, will receive a Master of Laws degree at convocation. Kurdistan is a federal region inside Iraq.

The 23-year-old Aziz graduated first in his law school class at Salahaddin University in 2010, and he soon will return to Kurdistan to work as a law professor there. Aziz chose the College of Law at ASU because its customized LL.M. program gave him the opportunity to concentrate his studies on subjects that interested him. He focused on government and administration law, and hopes to make a difference when he returns to Kurdistan.

“If my government were free from corruption and more transparent, it would change everything.” Aziz said. “It is our right to become a free and independent country, and I want to help do that.”

He said that the professors in Kurdistan teach strictly by the book and don’t focus on more recent developments in the law. Aziz said he hopes to implement some of what he has learned from his law professors into his own teaching style.

“I want my students to know how the law is right now, not just how it used to be,” Aziz said. “This will help them to make bigger changes.”

Blaine Bandi will receive the inaugural Outstanding Master of Legal Studies Graduate Award at convocation. Bandi, Executive Director of the Arizona Health Facilities Authority, enrolled in the MLS program in fall of 2009 because he wanted to better understand how legislation, regulation and policy shapes health-care delivery. The MLS program is designed for non-lawyers who want to understand, but not practice, law.

Bandi said his course of study was consistently challenging, immensely informative, occasionally humorous, often frustrating and an invaluable investment.

“More than anything else, I will remember my progressive exhilaration of developing an understanding of the processes that shape our laws, legislation and regulations,” said the 53-year-old Peoria resident. “I am not always happy with the outcomes of these processes. However, unlike three years ago, I now appreciate the complexity of the relationships between the ‘real world’ practitioners, the policymakers and the interpreters.”

“I will be able to work better with contracts, integrating legislation, figuring out the nuts and bolts,” he added. “I’m more confident knowing what I’m looking at. And I will have a better understanding of the lawyers I work with and how to interact with them.”

Bandi said his best memories of his law school experience are of attending the U.S. Supreme Court arguments on challenges to President Obama’s health care in April.

“For someone in my career, interested in health care, at this particular point in time in our history, it was an amazing experience.”

Top faculty and student selection awards

Professor Alan Matheson was selected by the class of 2012 to receive the Outstanding Faculty Award. Matheson arrived at the College of Law in 1967, and has since served as Dean or Interim Dean several times. He teaches in the arid of constitutional law, community property, administrative law and education law.

“I am honored and surprised,” Matheson said. “Anytime a teacher receives recognition from students, it’s a wonderful thing to experience. I’m deeply grateful.”

Alexander Lacroix was chosen by a vote of the class to be the student convocation speaker.

Written by Meghan McCarthy