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Use Your Law Degree to Provide Access to Those Who Lack It, Former California Supreme Court Justice Urged SCU Law Centennial-Year Graduates

Saturday, May. 21, 2011

SANTA CLARA, Calif., May 21, 2011 — Use your law degree to make legal and civil rights accessible to those without resources, former California Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno told the 300 graduating law students from Santa Clara University School of Law.

The law school’s Centennial-year commencement took place at 9:30 a.m. Saturday in the University’s Mission Gardens.

Moreno spoke on a sunny day before a multi-ethnic crowd of more than 3,500 family, friends and supporters of the 2011 graduates. He recounted how shocked he was at the difficulty he encountered when trying to procure services for his autistic niece, whom he and his wife have raised since she was five years old.

He told of the maddening bureaucracy and misinformation he had to overcome to get his niece the medical, school and social services that were hers by law. If he, a federal judge, was having problems getting the system to work, he said, what chance do those with lesser resources have?

Unless individual rights to due process, equal protection and civil rights “are enforced and exercised and given meaning in actual practice,” he said, then “for all intents and purposes they may as well cease to exist for many people in our society.”

Moreno’s speech came as Santa Clara University School of Law is celebrating the 100th year since its founding as the “Santa Clara Institute of Law at Santa Clara College. “

The school has come a long way from its starting class of first-year students in 1911, which comprised 15 Caucasian men taught by a faculty of four part-time lawyers. This year’s graduating class comprised a nearly equal number of men and women, with 24 percent of the class indicating their ethnicity as Asian; 11 percent Hispanic; 4.5 percent Middle Eastern; and 3 percent African-American.

Law school Dean Donald Polden acted as master of ceremonies, and University President Michael Engh, S.J., spoke to the graduates, urging them to “be the conscience of Silicon Valley and the country.”

Of the graduating class on Saturday, 14 percent received certificates in various areas of high-tech law; another 12 percent received certificates in public-interest and social-justice law; and four percent specialized in international law.

“I cannot begin to put into words just how powerful your law school degree will be,” said Moreno, who received an honorary doctorate of laws during the ceremony.    “You will be truly amazed at the impact you are going to be able to have with it as you enter the practice of law and join the pantheon of truly great lawyers who have come from this law school.”

Among the awards for outstanding graduates given earlier in the graduation season, student Lara Muller received the Mabie Award for the Outstanding Graduate; Daniel Richards received the ABA-ALI award for academic performance and professionalism, and Jessica Jackson received the inaugural Dean's Leadership Award for positive leadership impact on the law school community and beyond. 

About Santa Clara University School of Law
Santa Clara University School of Law, founded in 1911 on the site of California’s oldest operating higher-education institution, is dedicated to educating lawyers who lead with a commitment to excellence, ethics, and social justice. One of the nation’s most diverse law schools, Santa Clara Law offers its 1,000 students an academically rigorous program, including graduate degrees in international law and intellectual property law; combined J.D./MBA and J.D./MSIS degrees; and certificates in intellectual property law, international law, and public interest and social justice law. Santa Clara Law is located in the world-class business center of Silicon Valley, and is distinguished nationally for its top-ranked program in intellectual property. For more information, see

About Santa Clara University
Santa Clara University, a comprehensive Jesuit, Catholic university located 40 miles south of San Francisco in California’s Silicon Valley, offers its more than 8,800 students rigorous undergraduate curricula in arts and sciences, business, theology, and engineering, plus master’s and law degrees and engineering Ph.D.s. Distinguished nationally by one of the highest graduation rates among all U.S. master’s universities, California’s oldest operating higher education institution demonstrates faith-inspired values of ethics and social justice. For more information, see

Media Contact:
Deborah Lohse | SCU Media Relations | | 408-554-5121


Tags: commencement, lawschool_commencement

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