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2017 Alumni Award Winners
Since her appointment in 2003, Judge Mary Ellen Coster Williams has served on the United States Court of Federal Claims in Washington, D.C. From 1989 to 2003, she served as an administrative judge on the General Services Board of Contract Appeals. During her combined 28 years on the bench, Judge Williams has handled wide-ranging civil matters including government contract disputes, Fifth Amendment taking claims, and patent infringement actions against Government agencies.
Born and raised in New York, Judge Williams received a B.A. in Latin and Greek and an M.A. in Latin from the Catholic University of America before attending Duke Law School. Following graduation from Duke Law, Judge Williams started her career in private practice as a civil litigator before serving as an Assistant United States Attorney. Throughout her career, Judge Williams has been active in bar associations, serving on the Board of Governors of the American Bar Association, as chair of the ABA’s Section of Public Contract Law and in the ABA House of Delegates. Judge Williams has served as the Foundation President, a Trustee, and a member of the Board of Directors for the Bar Association of the District of Columbia. She is a former Chair of the D.C. Young Lawyers Section and Secretary of the D.C. Bar.
Judge Williams currently teaches a course on litigation with the federal Government at American University Washington College of Law. She previously taught at the Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law and at Johns Hopkins University’s Advanced Academic Program for Law and Government.
Richard A. Danner
Richard A. Danner is Archibald C. and Frances Fulk Rufty Research Professor of Law, and Senior Associate Dean for Information Services. His primary academic interests are in open access, legal history, and legal research. In addition to his administrative responsibilities, he has taught courses on statutory interpretation, legal research, and legal writing.
Professor Danner has been active in professional associations for law librarians and legal educators. He has served as president of the American Association of Law Libraries, chaired several AALL special committees and task forces, and edited AALL's Law Library Journal. He presented the AALL Distinguished Lecture in 2014 and is a member of the AALL Hall of Fame. He was first vice-president of the International Association of Law Libraries from 2004-2010. He has served on many site visits to other law schools on behalf of the American Bar Association Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, and the Association of American Law Schools. He served on the AALS membership committee from 1997-2000 and executive committee from 2002-2004.
Danner is known as an advocate for open access to legal scholarship, and has written on the impacts of information technology on legal education and the effects of electronic publication on scholarly communication in law. His current research is focused on the roles played by forms and structures of legal information on the history and development of U.S. law. He is the author of Strategic Planning: A Law Library Management Tool for the '90s and Beyond (2d ed. 1997) and Legal Research in Wisconsin (1980), and contributions to journals of law and librarianship. He is the editor of Toward a Renaissance in Law Librarianship (1997); co-editor (with Bernal) of Introduction to Foreign Legal Systems (1994); compiler of the International Journal of Legal Information Cumulative Index 1960-2002 (2003); co-editor (with Houdek) of Legal Information and the Development of American Law (2008); and co-editor (with Winterton) of the IALL International Handbook of Legal Information Management (2012), which received the 2012 AALL Joseph L. Andrews Legal Literature Award.
John R. Wester ‘72
The Charles S. Rhyne award was established in 1994 to recognize graduates whose careers exemplify the highest standards of professionalism, personal integrity, and commitment to education or community service. The award commemorates the life and career of the late Charles S. Rhyne, T'34, L'35, who championed equality, justice, and peace in his roles as a lawyer before the U.S. Supreme Court, special counsel to the President of the United States, President of the American Bar Association, a professor of government and law, and a Duke University trustee.
John Wester has practiced at Robinson Bradshaw for his entire legal career. Throughout his time at the bar, he has combined courtroom advocacy with service to the legal profession. He was inducted as a Fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers in 1994. In 2009-10, he was president of the North Carolina Bar Association.
Wester tries cases and argues appeals in complex civil litigation, prosecuting and defending cases in state and federal courts. Two of Wester’s cases have reached the United States Supreme Court. At 34, he argued to the Court for Ford Motor Company in a case establishing back pay rules for discrimination cases. In Hyatt v. Shalala, Wester was lead counsel for a class of 150,000 disabled North Carolinians in litigation that included five arguments to the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals and a successful petition for certiorari to the Supreme Court. Near the conclusion of this 20-year litigation, the trial court observed: “Plaintiffs have succeeded in forcing the Social Security Administration to halt application of a secret, unlawful policy to its determination of hundreds of thousands of disability claims in North Carolina and, perhaps, to many hundreds of thousands more outside North Carolina. As a result of this case, plaintiffs have effected fundamental change to a recalcitrant agency which brought all of the power of the federal government to bear on Plaintiffs and their counsel while it resisted Plaintiffs’ efforts to enforce the orders of this court each step of the way.”
In partnership with Legal Aid, Wester and Robinson Bradshaw represented the disabled citizens pro bono publico, receiving the first national pro bono award in the history of the American Bar Association.
Outside his wheelhouse of business litigation, Wester has brought and defended cases advancing state and federal constitutional issues. He was lead counsel in an action for Governor Patrick McCrory and former Governors James Hunt and James Martin against the North Carolina General Assembly. In 2016, the N.C. Supreme Court ruled for the governors, striking down a series of laws as unconstitutional for violating separation of powers.
Wester attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as a Morehead Scholar before earning his law degree, with high honors, from Duke University. He was note and comment editor of the Duke Law Journal and inducted into the Order of the Coif.
Paul W. Hespel ‘95
Paul W. Hespel is a 1995 graduate of Duke Law’s Master of Laws program. Prior to that, Paul obtained law degrees from the Catholic University of Leuven (Belgium, 1994) and the University of Poitiers (ERASMUS program, France, 1993). He also obtained an MBA from INSEAD in 2003. Paul is a partner with the Financial Services practice group at Pepper Hamilton LLP, resident in their New York office. His practice focuses on the representation of private equity funds, alternative capital sources (such as hedge funds, mezzanine funds and related debt funds), and marketplace lenders in leveraged finance transactions. He lives in Brooklyn, New York with his wife Petal and their children, Amelie and Elodie. When not at work or enjoying the company of his wife and children, he enjoys cooking and entertaining.
Linton Mann III ‘07
Linton Mann III is a Partner in Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP’s Litigation Practice. Linton represents clients in a broad range of high-stakes litigation and investigation matters including securities, shareholder derivative disputes, class actions, antitrust and complex commercial disputes. Linton is the Chair of the Board of Trustees for Uncommon Charter Schools New York City which oversees twenty-two public charter schools in Brooklyn, New York. He is also on the Board of Directors of Manhattan Legal Services, a program of Legal Services NYC, the largest provider of pro bono civil legal services in the country, and he is the Secretary of the Board of Directors of DukeNY, a division of the Duke Alumni Association.
Linton also has significant pro bono experience including representing low-income tenants in New York City’s Housing Court and New York’s trial and appellate courts. He also participates in and coordinated (2009-2016) Simpson Thacher’s Legal Outreach Internship. Legal Outreach is an organization that prepares urban youth from underserved communities to compete at high levels by using intensive legal and educational programs as tools for fostering vision, developing skills, enhancing confidence and facilitating the pursuit of higher education. Linton lives in New York City with his husband and their three children.