PUBLISHED:May 13, 2016

Class of 2016 presents Justin Miller awards at gala

A weekend of graduation ceremonies and celebrations for the Class of 2016 began on Thursday night with a gala in Star Commons. During the event, graduates honored their peers with the presentation of the annual Justin Miller Awards.

The Justin Miller Award winners are individuals selected by their peers as demonstrating the highest levels of citizenship, intellectual curiosity, integrity, and leadership during their time at Duke Law. The awards honor the example and memory of Justin Miller, the Law School’s dean from 1930 to 1934, who implemented values at Duke that remain foundational to the Duke Blueprint to LEAD and to the Duke Law experience.

Dyna Zekaoui received the Citizenship Award, and presenter Anna Johns summed up the feelings of many of the students who nominated Zekaoui.

In addition to her volunteer work and leadership roles with various organizations, Zekaoui, Johns said, is a “natural connector.”

“I have had at least three different coffee dates with students who would be otherwise strangers because Dyna met them through her own networks and felt that we had something in common or important information to share. These connections that she has built in my life have made my law school experience so much richer!”

Many of her classmates mentioned Zekaoui’s eagerness to help fellow students she barely knows.

“After a particularly rough day of 1L, a friend gave me Dyna's number and suggested that I reach out to her. Within an hour we were having a coffee together, and she was telling me about study tips, time management skills she'd learned as a CPA, and recommending restaurants in Durham,” one nominator wrote.

Another wrote of a chance encounter in the hallway: “I had just gotten out of a career counseling meeting, and I was visibly distressed. Even though Dyna and I had only talked a few times before in passing, and even though she needed to be somewhere, she stopped and took the time to give me perspective and optimism. To me, Dyna is somebody who embodies the spirit of what Duke Law aspires to be, collegial, supportive, and optimistic.”

Richard Lin received the Integrity Award from his classmates, and multiple nominators used the same words to describe him.

“Rich Lin is truly one of the most honorable, generous, respectable, grounded, trustworthy people I have ever met.”

“I met Richard Lin on the first day that I moved to Durham, and was immediately struck by his generosity and selflessness.”

“Rich Lin is the backbone of Duke Law School and the reason I have a career and a positive attitude toward the future.”

“I am not exaggerating when I say that Rich is the most honorable and nicest person I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. I first met Rich when he volunteered to be a WLSA mentor, showing that he truly is an equal opportunity mentor. I know so many people at the law school who have benefitted from his guidance, and I am certainly one of them.”

“Throughout the unrest in Ferguson and national pain over repeated scenes of grotesque police brutality, Rich Lin posted messages of hope on his Facebook, often ‘liked’ by dozens of fellow Duke Law students who look to him as a former police officer for input and insight,” said Christine Kim, who presented Lin with the award. “Whenever I get down or question whether we are creating lawyers who will serve the public interest and who will be true citizen lawyers, I remember Rich Lin and feel confident again that good people will continue to lead the country and our profession into a more just future.”

Anne Showalter was presented with the Intellectual Curiosity Award for her hard work, love of learning, and the “awe inspiring zeal with which she undertakes her legal studies,” according to nominations from her peers. Presenter James Simpson wrote about Showalter’s Dean’s Cup performance in his nomination.

“I think it is an imminent sign of intellectual curiosity when one is not only willing to look beyond her own personal assumptions but in fact relishes in the opportunity. Annie is just such a person. I can think of no more potent illustration of this than her shockingly persuasive, best-oralist-winning oral argument in the Dean's Cup last year. 1L Annie would be horrified that she would ever have to make an argument that the Second Amendment meant anything other than exactly what Justice Scalia said it did in D.C. v. Heller, but so keen is her love of learning that she convinced herself of the opposite and then argued it better than anybody else. She did not do this for the glory, but rather for an opportunity to learn everything there is to know about the Second Amendment.”

The Leadership Award was shared by Seth Pearson and Christine Kim. Both students took on leadership roles with student organizations, Pearson as president of OutLaw and the Black Graduate and Professional Student Association, Kim as co-President of the American Constitution Society and Editor-in-Chief of the Duke Journal of Gender Law & Policy. Each served with various other organizations and committees within the law school and university, and worked to organize major conferences and symposia.

Presenter Ocoszio Jackson wrote in his nomination that Pearson “has left an indelible mark on the student experience at not only the law school, but also the community as a whole.”

“Seth has served on a number of University-wide committees such as the committee on Race, Bias and Hate, the Julian Abele Commissioning Committee, as well as the President's Committee on Black Affairs,” he continued. “Seth is relentless in his selflessness as a passionate student advocate and leader. He has never let his personal interests conflict with his ability to lead.”

Both students were lauded for working to create meaningful dialogue about vital but difficult issues.

Presenter Katlin Karges said that Kim “has been one of the busiest and most successful leaders at the law school.”

“During her tenure of leadership with ACS, Christine has helped organize an incredibly diverse range of events which have inspired and educated her fellow students,” Karges continued. “Christine helped organize ‘The Present and Future of Civil Rights Movements: Race and Reform in 21st Century America’ as part of her leadership with the Center on Law, Race and Politics. That event brought in speakers and participants from all over the country. Christine organized the Duke Journal of Gender Law & Policy Symposium this year, bringing celebrated scholars to Duke Law to discuss current issues in gender and sexuality. There are few other students who have been as active as Christine, and as instrumental in improving the intellectual conversation here at Duke law around issues of race, gender, and inequality.”

Svetlana Portman LLM '16 was awarded the LLM Leadership and Community Participation Award. Nominators cited her hard work in and out of the classroom:

"Sveta participated in the Civil Justice Clinic. While being a full-time LLM student during the day, she worked on her cases during the night. She put her heart and soul into the cases, working for the clinic clients."

"Sveta is a wonderful student, responsible, hard working, curious and independent. She is knowledgeable in diverse legal areas, including administrative law, private law and intellecutal property."

"Svetlana was a leader of a spring break trip to Israel, in which 50 law students, JDs and LLMs, went for eight days. The goal was to introduce Israel to students while creating an opportunity for an experience that JDs and LLMs could share."