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May 2016

Justice Mariano Florentino Cuellar and Judge Lucy Koh

Justice Mariano Florentino Cuellar and Judge Lucy Koh

Two Top Jurists Invoke History to Inspire 2016 SCU Law Graduates

Duo of top U.S. jurists urged SCU Law graduates to bridge divides and to learn from history that obstacles are part of the journey.

SANTA CLARA, Calif., May 23, 2016 — California Supreme Court Justice Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar and U.S. District Judge Lucy Haeran Koh of the Northern District of California urged Santa Clara University School of Law’s newest graduates to build bridges across divided groups of people, as did many members of America’s “Greatest Generation” who came of age during the Depression and World War II.

The two jurists, who are married, served as commencement speakers to the 241 graduating students from Santa Clara University School of Law at a ceremony that took place at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, May 21, in the University’s Mission Gardens.

Reminding graduates of Wayne Kanemoto, the Japanese-American who had to receive his SCU law degree and be sworn into the bar from an internment camp in 1942, the speakers noted that Kanemoto nonetheless went on to serve in the U.S. military, work as a Japanese language signal specialist, become the first Japanese-American attorney in Santa Clara County, and create naturalization classes and mass swearing-in ceremonies for new U.S. citizens.

Kanemoto and others of the “Greatest Generation” had to muddle through “leaps of faith, compromises, failures of principle that define any society as it works to live up to its own princples,” said Justice Cuéllar. “Believe that you can build bridges across chasms that seem to divide people. Between the committed Catholic and the pious Muslim; between the libertarian and the liberal, and yes, between Giants fans and Dodger fans,” he said.

Cuéllar is an expert in administrative, criminal and international law, and joined the California Supreme Court on Jan. 5, 2015. He previously served in two presidential administrations, including working on criminal and civil justice, public health and safety, regulatory reform, immigration and other issues during the Obama administration. During the Clinton administration, he worked at the U.S. Treasury Department on targeting financial and cross-border crime.

Koh is well-known in Silicon Valley for presiding over numerous high profile technology lawsuits, including three Apple v. Samsung jury trials and cases alleging salary collusion by many high-tech companies. President Barack Obama appointed her to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in June 2010, and in February of this year he nominated her to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

During the commencement address, both speakers shared their stories of being immigrants whose illustrious careers took sometimes unexpected turns. Koh noted that were it not for being turned down for all the civil rights fellowships she’d wanted, she would not have ended up working in the U.S. Senate which put her on track for her current career.

“As a lawyer you can help make the world a better place in so many ways,” said Koh, citing contract law to help children with free lunches, adoption law, corporate law or social service law.

Both speakers received an honorary Doctor of Law degree at the event.

Of the 241 graduates, 58 graduates received certificates in various areas of high-tech law; another 25 received certificates in public-interest and social-justice law; seven specialized in international law and five in privacy law.

Among the awards for outstanding graduates given earlier in the graduation season, student Azadeh Morrison received the Inez Mabie Award for the Outstanding Graduate based on academic performance, scholarly activities, leadership and service roles at the law school and in the community.  Wesley Dodd received the 2016 American Law Institute award for outstanding scholarship and leadership.  Lizbeth Mateo received the Dean's Outstanding Student Leadership Award for exemplifying the school’s motto of “lawyers who lead” and serving other students, the school, and community.  Lara Verwer was named the Graduate Pro Bono Student of the Year, for the graduate who has volunteered the most hours during the 2015-16 school year.

About Santa Clara University School of Law
Santa Clara University School of Law, one of the nation’s most diverse law schools, is dedicated to educating lawyers who lead with a commitment to excellence, ethics, and social justice. Santa Clara Law offers students an academically rigorous program including certificates in high tech law, international law, public interest and social justice law, and privacy law, as well as numerous graduate and joint degree options. Located in the heart of Silicon Valley, Santa Clara Law is nationally distinguished for its faculty engagement, preparation for practice, and top-ranked programs in intellectual property. For more information, see

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


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California Supreme Court Justice Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar and U.S. District Judge Lucy Harean Koh of the Northern District of California spoke at the Santa Clara University School of Law commencement May 21, 2016. Photo by Joanne H. Lee