New & Noteworthy

WLS Alums Join the U.S. Supreme Court Bar

Associate Dean Judith Daar Joins WLS Alumni in Group Swearing-In Ceremony at the US Supreme Court

In early December, I had the distinct privilege of accompanying a group of WLS alums to the nation’s capital where we were sworn in as the newest member of the United States Supreme Court Bar. On December 6 and 7, 2010, nearly two dozen alums and I raised our right hands before the Justices of the Supreme Court sitting en banc, and affirmed the oath administered by Chief Justice John Roberts. For many, this high honor was made even more special by the presence of family and friends present and beaming in the elegant courtroom.

The WLS Supreme Court Swearing In Ceremony was a three-day event that began on Sunday, December 5, 2010 with dinner at a Capitol Hill restaurant. There alums and guests had a chance to meet, some for the first time, to share their excitement over the upcoming ceremony and reflect on memories of law school. The alums spanned over twenty years of WLS classes, with our most senior alum hailing from the Class of 1985, and the most junior from the Class of 2007. After dinner, I had the chance to brief the group on recent campus events and plans for the continued growth and development of the law school.

At 7:00 a.m. on Monday morning, our group assembled on the front steps of the hallowed Court for individual and group photos. Despite the freezing temperatures and howling winds, the group was in high spirits (though there was much talk of returning with all deliberate speed to sunny California). Once inside the building, we were treated to breakfast in the West Conference Room, a beautifully appointed wood paneled salon housing portraits of the chief justices of the high court. After breakfast and a meeting with General William Suter, the current Clerk of the Supreme Court, we were ushered inside the stunning main courtroom. At precisely 10:00 a.m., we heard the Marshal’s familiar call to assemble. “Oyez, Oyez, Oyez.” One by one, the justices walked in from behind the imposing red velvet curtain that serves as the high bench backdrop to take their familiar seats. On this day, eight justices emerged, as Justice Kagan had recused herself on both cases scheduled for argument.

Back row, left to right: Vicki Dalva, Class of 2000, Lisa Wiley, Class of 2007, James Kristy, Class of 2000, James Rendleman, Class of 1985.

Front row, left to right: Robyn McDonald, Class of 1985, Kathleen Loyer and Miji Vellekkatel, Class of 2004.

back row, left to right: Taraneh Khorrami, Class of 2005, Greg Larson, Class of 2005, Paul Lee, Class of 1992, Steve Garber, Class of 1991, Jeff Stivers, Class of 2000, Azzam Saad, Class of 2003, James Rendleman, Class of 1985.

Front row, left to right: Kathy Hurst, Class of 2002, Associate Dean of Academic Affairs, Judith Daar, Andrew Strait, Class of 2003, Natasha Radwan, Class of 2006, Stephen Kwan, Class of 2002, Holly Harpham, Class of 2005, Susan Gorman, Class of 2003

For the next two hours, we heard five attorneys press their case before the justices. The first case to be heard, Henderson v. Shinseki, involved a veteran who filed an untimely appeal to a denial of home care benefits. The Court agreed to consider whether the applicable statute of limitations was jurisdictional and therefore barred application of the doctrine of equitable tolling. The second case, Pepper v. United States, focused on whether a district court judge can consider a defendant’s post-sentencing rehabilitation as a factor supporting a sentencing variation under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. In most instances, the attorneys barely got past, “May it please the Court” before the grilling from the bench began.

After a catered lunch, our group walked next door to the Library of Congress, a grand Italian-inspired edifice with a rich history dating back to our nation’s founding. We were treated to a private tour, and then ushered through an underground passageway to the U.S. Capitol for our final stop of the day. After the Capitol tour, the group said our farewells as we each folded into the bustle of this vibrant city. I returned to Southern California later that night, glad to be returning to above-freezing temperatures but with a warm glow from the once-in-a-lifetime experience.

I want to give special thanks Terry Berger who assisted us over this past year to organize the three-day event, and to Kevin Kennedy, photographer extraordinaire, whose work is seen below. We hope to provide this same opportunity to other alums in the near future, and will keep you posted as the next WLS at the Supreme Court gets underway.