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Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito Speaks at College of Law Inaugural Commencement

College celebrates graduation of 120 students from charter class

Justice Alito congratulates a new College of Law graduate.

Justice Alito congratulates a new College of Law graduate.

Belmont University’s College of Law celebrated the graduation of its charter class today as 120 students received their Juris Doctor degrees along with timely inspiration from commencement speaker and Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito. Belmont announced the opening of the College of Law on Oct. 7, 2009, one year after hosting the 2008 Town Hall Presidential Debate, and the charter cohort began classes in fall 2011. From enrolling with a median class LSAT of 154, the 2014 graduating Law class set the standard for Belmont lawyers to follow through classroom performance, co-curricular involvement and community service.

Belmont President Bob Fisher said, “We opened a College of Law because we believe it fits perfectly within Belmont’s mission to provide a transformative education that empowers civic engagement and creates change agents in our community and the broader world. This first class has undoubtedly exceeded expectations, and I’m both proud and honored to welcome Justice Alito to campus to give them a final charge into service.”

Encouraging his fellow graduates to “build a legacy of greatness,” Alexander H. Mills provided the valedictorian address for the College of Law Class of 2014, quoting from Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

Justice Alito used his commencement address to declare that the foundational backbone of this country could provide an appropriate source for the graduates’ future guiding principles. “The essential features of the Constitution and the legal system can lead us to ideals that are applicable to life… it separates matters that are essential from matters that are simply important. The same strategy is a good one to implement in our personal lives. It’s good to go through the mental process to identify what is essential and permanent in our lives, those things that matter most.”

Justice Alito also noted the brevity and accessibility of the Constitution, as well as the way it reflects the American culture of optimism. “The Constitution entrusts the future to the good sense and decency of the American people.”

law commencement-141Though Supreme Court Justices rarely offer commencement addresses, Supreme Court Associate Justice Samuel Anthony Alito, Jr. agreed last summer to speak at Belmont Law’s inaugural graduation. Educated at Princeton University and Yale Law School, Alito served as a law clerk for Leonard I. Garth of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit from 1976–1977. He was assistant U.S. attorney for the District of New Jersey from 1977–81, assistant to the solicitor general for the U.S. Department of Justice from 1981–85, deputy assistant attorney general for the U.S. Department of Justice from 1985–87, and U.S. attorney for the District of New Jersey from 1987–90. He was appointed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in 1990. President George W. Bush nominated him as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, and he took his seat January 31, 2006.

Founding College of Law Dean Dr. Jeff Kinsler, who is stepping down June 1 to return to a full-time faculty role, said, “We have pushed these students to be the best attorneys possible, presenting them with challenging academics while also helping them garner as much first-hand, practical experience as possible. I couldn’t be more proud of how they’ve responded, and I’m confident they will become exceptional lawyers and community leaders.”

Having a Supreme Court Justice speak at the first graduation represents a perfect culmination to the legal education for Belmont Law’s charter class, but it’s certainly not the only highlight of the College’s first few years. Accomplishments and moments of pride to date include:

Academics

  • Guest speakers for Belmont Law have included noted Civil Rights attorney Fred Gray, International Justice Mission founder Gary Haugen, Restore International/author Bob Goff, journalist and First Amendment advocate John Seigenthaler, former U.S. Congressman Mike Espy and U.S. Congressman Lamar Smith.
  • Former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was recently named the next dean for the College of Law, effective June 1.
  • The College of Law hosted the Tennessee Supreme Court’s review of three appeals cases in February, allowing students first-hand perspective of how the state’s highest court functions.
  • Belmont Law’s 2013 entering class has a median LSAT of 155 and median 3.42 GPA, placing it in the top 100 of American law schools.

Honors and Awards

  • The American Bar Association (ABA) granted provisional accreditation to Belmont Law last summer—the milestone was achieved in the earliest possible timeline allowed by accreditation guidelines and marked the first time in nearly 50 years a Tennessee law program has received accreditation.
  • The Baskin Center, a new building that opened in 2012 to house the College of Law, was awarded Gold-Level LEED certification, the first LEED-certified law school building in the state.
  • In its overall ranking of the 202 ABA-accredited law schools by student selectivity weighted by LSAT scores and undergraduate GPAs using the U.S. News methodology, Belmont placed in the top half of the list at No. 95. At that level, Belmont is ranked higher than every new private law school to open in the country in the past 35 years.
  • Two trial advocacy teams from Belmont University College of Law competed in the Louisville, Kent., regional of the 2014 American Association for Justice (AAJ) Student Trial Advocacy Competition. Both teams went undefeated until they met each other in the championship round.
  • Belmont Law student Candace Meagan Carter was one of only two students in the state awarded the inaugural Birch Memorial Scholarship.
  • The Tennessee Bar Association named Belmont Law student and soon-to-be 2014 graduate Katie Blankenship its 2014 Law Student Volunteer of the Year.

Community Service

  • College sponsored Nashville’s “Law Day 2010,” a 50-year anniversary event honoring local attorneys who defended the rights of the lunch counter sit-in demonstrators in Nashville courts in 1960.
  • The College’s Student Bar Association turned its traditional Barrister’s Ball into a fundraiser for locally-based nonprofits, the Both Hands Foundation in 2013 and the Tennessee Justice Center this year.
  • The College of Law’s Baskin Center houses Nashville’s Arts & Business Council, allowing for sustainable partnerships between the Council’s work and Belmont Law students.

About Belmont’s College of Law
Belmont’s College of Law provides a natural extension of the university’s mission and vision, which emphasize challenging academics, a service-minded approach, real-world experience and community leadership. Belmont law graduates are practice-ready attorneys, empowered by their education and co-curricular experiences to provide legal counsel in a variety of settings, with commitment to high standards of expertise and ethics. The College of Law is housed on campus in the Randall and Sadie Baskin Center, which includes a state-of-the-art law library.

Click here for additional photos from the charter College of Law commencement.

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