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Keep Your Values Even as the Legal Profession Shifts Around You, CNMI Chief Justice Tells 2010 Santa Clara Law Graduates
Saturday, May. 22, 2010
SANTA CLARA, Calif. – May 22, 2010. Keep your values in mind even as the legal world shifts around you, the Hon. Miguel S. Demapan, chief justice of the Supreme Court of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, told the 350 graduating members of Santa Clara University School of Law.
The law school’s 99th commencement took place at 9:30 a.m. Saturday in the University’s Mission Gardens, attended by about 3,500 exuberant friends and family of the graduating class.
Santa Clara University's School of Law is hailed as one of the most diverse law schools in the nation. The Class of 2010 comprises 32 percent Asian or Pacific-Islander; 7 percent Hispanic; 3 percent African-American; and 54 percent Caucasian students, of which 45 percent are women and 55 percent men. Fifty-two already have advanced degrees.
Twenty nine students received certificates in high-technology law; 24 in public interest and social justice; and 10 in international and comparative law.
Standing under a sweeping white awning on a sunny, windy morning, Demapan spoke of the rapid pace of change in the legal profession, including a challenging job environment and movement in Australia, the UK and elsewhere to allow law firms to be publicly traded. That raises questions about whether client concerns will get diluted in favor of shareholder demands for profits, he said.
“The legal community now faces a new reality in today’s society, in which firms are seen as business entities as much, or more so, than as a practice.” He asked “Can the maximization of profits co-exist in a profession in which we owe the highest duties to both the court system and our clients?”
He spoke of how technology had empowered consumers of law and government. “People are now demanding more from their courts than ever before. They are more aware of their rights and what government should be doing for them and how their leaders should be held accountable.”
As part of commencement, Linda Wuestehube and Erik Kaeding were honored as outstanding graduates.
Wuestehube, Santa Clara Law IP Fellow with a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Princeton University, received the Inez Mabie Award, which is sponsored by the Mabie Family Foundation for an exemplary graduate who has “demonstrated qualities of scholarship, community leadership, and a sense of professional responsibility.”
Kaeding, who received a certificate in public-interest law, has won numerous awards at SCU including the Justice John Paul Stevens Public Interest Fellowship. He received the American Law Institute-American Bar Association Scholarship and Leadership Award. More information on the outstanding graduates is available at SCU Law.
In his role as a former Superior Court judge and as the current chief justice, Demapan has presided over and written rulings on key issues for the CNMI, including cases of government bribery and abuse of power. He also recently oversaw an innovative movement to push home-foreclosure cases into mediation, rather than the courts, to help resolve one of the CNMI’s top social crises.
Demapan who received his J.D. from Santa Clara Law in 1985, was introduced by the school’s dean, Don Polden, and his speech followed a welcome by Santa Clara University’s president Michael Engh, S.J. Engh urged the graduates to “be ethical, and strive for justice that is restorative and reconciling.”
Demapan was awarded an honorary doctor of laws degree, a poignant development given that he was unable to attend his own 1985 graduation ceremony due to pressing matters at home.
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