Duke Law Celebrates Class of 2005 at Annual Hooding Ceremony

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The Honorable J. Harvie Wilkinson III, former chief judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, shared his views on judicial activism and his vision for the federal courts when he addressed Duke Law graduates and their guests at the Law School’s hooding ceremony May 14 at Cameron Indoor Stadium. The 210 successful JD candidates in the class of 2005 included 19 who also earned the LLM degree in International and Comparative Law, and 28 who earned other joint-degrees. 71 graduates earned the LLM in American law, and the Law School awarded one Master of Legal Studies degree.

While observing that certain instances of judicial intervention-such as that in Brown v. Board of Education-can be well justified, Judge Wilkinson called for greater judicial deference to the democratic branches of the federal government in setting policy, particularly on matters of national security and the expansion of science and technology. Elected representatives, as opposed to appointed judges, should be the voice of the people on those controversial and potentially divisive issues in the next 20 years, he said.

“I hope you will remember that a public decision with which one disagrees is often more acceptable if it is made through the political process, in which the losers had their chance to participate, than if it is made wholly through the courts. In this sense, a restoration of restraint assists the restoration of good will, because democratic governance gives everyone their say.”

Though Judge Wilkinson said that it would be a mistake for the courts to retreat from their obligation to protect the freedoms and rights of citizens, he warned against celebrating courtroom victories. “The often-pleasing results of rulings are not to be confused with defensible principles.”

He left the graduates with some words of caution regarding the use of power.

“The measure of greatness is sometimes not in the possession of power, but in restraint in its exercise.

In her remarks to the graduates, Dean Katharine T. Bartlett praised their remarkable record of student engagement at the Law School; their many accomplishments included the establishment of more than seven new clubs, raising record amounts of money to support public interest fellowships, contributing to the Duke Bar Association’s 2004 American Bar Association National Achievement Award as the best law student government in the country, and record participation in their class gift. Dean Bartlett expressed the hope that they had been transformed by Duke Law, just as the School had benefited from their presence.

“I hope you have a greater and more mature sense of commitments - to a chosen profession, perhaps to a significant other you brought here or have found while you have been here, and to friends. I hope you have become tougher - mentally and emotionally - and also more respectful of others, especially those unlike yourselves.”

Mangyo Kinoshita of Japan also spoke of transcending differences in his address to his fellow LLMs, who hailed from 33 countries.

“Some of our countries still have battles, conflicts, and political problems, as well as important legal issues, which are things that we, as mere law students, could not solve by ourselves. Yet we all discussed those issues and exchanged our ideas and opinions seriously in the past nine months. Through those discussions, we understood each other better, though probably not perfectly, and we certainly felt that we created intimate and eventually irreplaceable friendships. And we do strongly hope that someday we can actually change those things together.”

Speaking on behalf of the graduating JDs, Thomas McCudden urged his classmates to revel in the endeavors and options that lie ahead.

“Hard work is indeed ahead, but when you find work you care about and that excites you, you’ll actually enjoy the work. The bar exam is just another challenge, one we’re all more than capable of meeting. Bills - those are real, but so are the significant accomplishments in law, government, and a host of other fields that lie ahead for us. With the talent and energy I have seen over the last three years among my fellow students, I have no doubt about that.

“Perhaps even better, we can look forward to the luxury of choice. We can do anything we want to do - from big firm to small, government to public interest. Not to mention all of the possibilities outside the law itself. Really, with so many opportunities, there is no excuse for not being happy.”

Board of Visitors Chair Peter Kahn ’76 closed the ceremony by welcoming the newly-hooded class into the family of Duke alumni. He reminded them of the values of the Duke Blueprint to LEAD (Lawyer Education And Development) and specifically of the Blueprint panel he sat on during the JD students’ orientation, the first time he spoke to them. He urged them to utilize the networking and mentoring relationships available to them through Duke alumni.

“ Take advantage of the opportunity - become active in your local Duke Law alumni organizations, meet with leading alumni in your community, let them help you get established in your careers, seek out their advice, and then join them and other alumni in ensuring that future law students at Duke have the same opportunity for a first rate education that you have had.”