Waller was speaking to the University of Mississippi Law School’s student orientation in the new Robert C. Khayat Law Center.
(The following is a running account of what Waller had to say. Please excuse the likely typos and other glitches by me as I type and listen.)
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In addition to law students, the audience is full of attorneys. I see Court of Appeals Judge Jimmy Maxwell, Circuit Judge Andrew Howorth, former U.S. attorney Jim Greenlee and former MSSC Justice Kay Cobb among them. Also former Bar prez Nina Tollison of Oxford. The place is packed and they’re trying to find seats for the overflow crowd.
9:33 - Dean Richard Gershon welcomes the assemblage. Said he told Class of 2014 that their legal profession begins now. Real lawyers will help them better understand what it means to be attorneys. Chance to meet them this early in career is really great. They all remember this experience and appreciate their giving their time and experiences. Each had a mentor, maybe more than one. One was Robert Khayat, who taught here.
First year students one day you’ll be back here to give your help to new 1Ls (that’s the law school category for first-year students.)
To introduce Hugh Keating, Gulfport attorney. Gershon talks about Keating’s deep experience with public service. Keating is MS Bar’s new president. He’s found balance in his personal and professional life, Gershon says.
9:38 - KEATING - It’s an honor and privilege to be here. (Intros his friend, Lem Adams, president-elect of Bar Assn. Adams is from Brandon.) As I look around, this is world class, unlikely anything I’ve ever seen in a law school environment. Magnificent facility. Proud to represent the Bar here today.
As I look out, I see confidence, tenacity, uncertainty, question marks of the unknown. Trust me, you’ll ask yourself How did I get myself into this? Will be challenges that you haven’t experienced before. Things will get you through them. Persistence, commitment and determination - coupled with a strong faith in yourself and your creator - will get you through these difficult times.
When I was an undergrad a U of South Ala., a good friend gave me words that carried me through: Believe in yourself and in your dream. Though impossible, somehow someday you’ll get through. Mountains fall and seas divide. Say not I cannot but I can. The prize of life we fail to win because we doubt the power within.
The message is of encouragement, also a message of caution. In this respect, somehow someday ... somehow, some of our fellow attorneys have lost their way. Does it mean any how, that ends justify the means? Does it mean subscribe to God’s law, the Golden Rule? It should, that should be enough. Man by nature is a weak and easily influenced being. Thus, we have created the Rule of Law, created the govern conflicts, provide safe passage through the dense fog. We need the rules. Mama’s “Do Right” rule is not enough, folks. These rules are going to help you get through that uncertain issue.
The rules are your compass in this ever evolving faster, dynamic world of the practice of law. Trust me, one day you will be confronted between your own personal economic interests and the interests of what you know is int he best interests of your client. Your knowledge of rules will influence how you decide. It will be your obligation to study, know and comply with the rules so your life doesn’t devolve into chaos. We don’t need to see more train wrecks in this profession.
If ever in doubt, don’t. Doubt? Don’t. Also your duty and obligation, as Waller speaks to you, to practice civility in the professional endeavors among your peers and others. In Toronto earlier this month at National cofnerence of Bar Presidents, US Supreme Court Justice STeven Bryer one of speakers - he said civility, education and respect for the rule of law have to be improved. Outgoing ABA prez followed to say civility used to be inherent in public discourse. We need to return to era when opposing sides could respectfully disagree.
Rambo doesn’t work. Somehow, we need to get back to where ability to disagree in civil manner is inherent. Your duty and obligation to serve your profession and community. Gov. Winter in my opinion one of our greatest Mississippians - he has condensed his writings in The Measure of Our Days, powerful words I want to share: We must remember that it will not be enough to be good lawyers. WE must be good citizens. Duty to our profession and society to make life more humane for our fellow citizens.
Somehow we need to give life to Gov. Winter’s words. Finally, in all your endeavors, believe in yourself and your dream. You’ll get through to your goals. The prizes of life, you can win if you somehow understand and nurture the power within.
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9:50 - Intros Chip Glaze, Bar director of Lawyers and Judges Assistance Program.
GLAZE - Most of you wondering why cramming this guy between prez of Bar and MS Chief Justice. The program is designed to help attorneys who are suffering from any sort of impairment - alcohol, mental health etc. We want to be available to you, today. They’re all interested in you succeeding, not just in making a lot of money and getting your name in case books. They are interested in your civility, those things that alcohol, drugs, depression - they can’t exist together. If you have a problem today, get in touch with our program. If you develop a program during Law School, or a peer, it’s confidential. About 20 percent of you are going to need this between now and end of your legal career. Please contact us.
9:52 - Gershon. This profession is not about doing this on your own. Rules allow you to talk to other lawyers, others. If have a problem, make sure you get help from the Bar, a great program. (Intros Waller)
Waller has done tremendous things for our state and our Bar. (lists Waller’s public service, accomplishments) Wonder if he thought when he was a 1L that he could be chief justice of the MS Supreme Court.
9:55 - WALLER - It’s a great honor to be with you today. Seems just like yesterday that I was sitting in your seat. Let’s relax a little bit. I want maybe to help you think conceptually about professionalism and ethics. And to do that, we’re going to explore two concepts - one, respect for the law, second is being a good citizen.
Respect for the law (shows video from our building dedication - former Bar Prez Nina Tollison’s remarks last May). Think about Oxford Square - most dominant structure, the courthouse. From every line of communication or avenue, everything points to the courthouse. Think about that specially, what it demonstrates, message that this is suppose to be for citizens in regard to respect for the law.
(plays video by Tollison) Quotes Faulkner - who writes about the courthouse, the center, the hub. Dominating all, protector of the weak, guardian of the aspirations and hopes.
9:59 - WALLER - We’ll change gears a little bit (next person is Justice Antonin Scalia, who talks in terms of the importance of the law in Mississippi.) You will be part of this.
SCALIA (on video) - Talks about how so much of law and the legal life is governed by state law. This court here has the last word (MS Supreme Court). I like being on the most important court in the land, but your state law is really the most important law and the state Supreme Court is the most important court. Says one Mississippian served on Supreme Court - had LQC Lamar 1888-1893. (little joke, said he served apparently after being a Roman gladiator ... laughs from audience.)
WALLER - This is on Bar’s web site if you want to see whole thing. Being a good citizen - LQC Lamar was second professor of MS Law School. He introduced Socratic Method to law school instruction - professor uses questions to develop the thought and logic and education of students. He also introduced what we now call Moot Court. Hope all of you will have op to develop your trial skills, your advocacy skills. They were leading edge concepts by Lamar.
Lamar also participated in some things, he was called a Fire Eater. He helped draft orders of secession, served in Confederate Army. Later to U.S> Senate, U.S. Supreme Court. What cemented his place in history occurred at a funeral for Sen. Charles Sumner of Massachussets who was caned. He was an abolitionist. Opposite of Lamar’s politics. Sumner was THE LEADING abolitionist, pressed Lincoln for abolition of slavery.
Think about this situation - Sumner dead. Fire Eater from MS stands up to give his eulogy. Lamar spoke message of reconciliation. At that time, many in North tht did not want the states to come back and be recognized. Many in South did not want to give up on the war, to be defined in the face of defeat. Lamar and Sumner joined in concept of reconciliation, let’s put that behind, join hands and get this country back together to become the great country that we can.
This was national headlines. Led to healing of the whole country. How big was this? John F. Kennedy wrote Profiles in Courage, 8 people who identified with statemanship, courage and leadership. One was LQC Lamar. That book earned Prez Kennedy a Pulitzer Prize. This was big, that LQC Lamar - didn’t do it because it was popular, because it was the right thing to do legally and morally.
Next, want to talk about another great person - Thurgood Marshall. When he wanted to take the chair as first year law student in Maryland, he was denied admission because it had law that said AFrican Americans could not go to predominantly white law school if separate-but-equal facility available for them. A few years later, he would step to podium in US Supreme Court to argue that the policy, law of separate but equal was illegal, unconstitutional and today we call that Brown v. Board of Education.
He would go on to argue 32 case before US Supreme Court. His win-loss ratio was 29-3. Kennedy appointed him to Court of Appeals, Johnson appointed him as solicitor general then to U.S> Supreme Court. Through his career, Marshall also gave time to assist drafting of constitutions of Ghana and Tanzania, in Africa. Why? He said I was honored to participate because I wanted to make sure that white citizens there had their rights preserved and protected. The Golden Rule, he followed that concept. Simple but one that’s very profound.
Third, Evelyn Gandy. probably dominated MS politics for four decades. Ole Miss Law graduate. During her law school, she was first female editor of Law REview, prez of student body. elected to Legislature, first female assistant attorney general, first female director of Dept. of Welfare,where she established civil rights laws. She was elected first female Commissioner of Insurance, as state treasurer where she enforced the requirement for banks to pay interest on state money. Elected first female lieutenant governor - that’s what I want to tell you about.
Most important, education. She found that education was not earning money from 16th Section land that it was suppose to. These lands are leased to support public education. She found that a lot of people were paying literally pennies a year for their use. She said wasn’t right, fair. So she sought legislation for leases to be based on fair market value. Politics gets stirred. Education committee chair refused to let it out to floor. Next year, she appointed a 31-year-old lawyer as head of Judiciary Committee (Carroll Ingram), bill survived 42 attempts on floor to amend, pass House amended and went to conference committee.
I asked her how she got it passed out of conference. She said, I instructed my conferees that no bill would be reported out until 16th Section Land reform was reported out. Was it popular? Probably not. She was unsuccessful to become governor. She took other courageous stand, putting others over herself.
So, three concepts - integrity, respect for others, service over self.
How does that affect you? When I was in law school for orientation and first class, speaker would say look - one of you won’t be there. But looking to left and right, my classmate Kay Cobb wound up on Supreme Court, Mike Moore as attorney general. The future leaders of this state, heads of largest law firm in state in years are sitting right in this room. Today, you start walking, talking, being acting respect for the law and being good citiznes. Because people you associate with now will contribute as much to your success as you will to theirs. It will pay off, if you will be a good citizen as well as a great lawyer.
God bless you. (much applause)
10:18 - Gershon, thanks to Waller. Know students and others in room benefit form your words.
• For more details, read Friday's Daily Journal.