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Long-time Nashville District Attorney General Torry Johnson to Join Belmont College of Law

Visiting professor will teach criminal justice courses on full-time basis

Torry JohnsonAfter serving as Metro Nashville and Davidson County District Attorney General for 27 years, Torry Johnson will retire Aug. 31 and prepare for joining Belmont University’s College of Law as an esteemed Visiting Professor in January 2015. Appointed to Davidson County District Attorney General in 1987 and then elected for three consecutive eight-year terms, Johnson has served the communities of Middle Tennessee for the majority of his career, garnering numerous legal, leadership and community service awards along the way.

Belmont President Bob Fisher said, “Bringing Torry Johnson on board as a faculty member is truly a significant coup for our College of Law. His devotion to his work and to public service is exceptional, and the expertise he can transmit to our students will raise the bar again on the educational opportunities Belmont Law provides.”

Johnson added, “Those of us who have lived in Nashville a long time have seen what Belmont University is doing, and this institution as a whole is an exciting place to be. Joining Belmont Law allows me to be on the ground floor of a young law school, and with Judge Gonzales and his leadership, it’s an attractive place for anyone in the legal field. I’ll also add that as District Attorney, one of my great joys has been working with young lawyers and watching them grow and become professionals in the field. I look forward to marrying conversations about real world experience with the theoretical knowledge students will encounter in the classroom.

As a Visiting Professor in Belmont’s College of Law, Johnson will teach criminal justice courses on a full-time basis and is particularly passionate about the opportunity to teach prosecutorial ethics to rising attorneys. Belmont Law graduated its first cohort in May and is provisionally accredited by the American Bar Association.

College of Law Dean Judge Alberto Gonzales said, “I am pleased to have the opportunity to work with General Johnson as a member of the law faculty. His experiences in the law will be of great benefit to our students.” (more…)

Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito Speaks at College of Law Inaugural Commencement

College celebrates graduation of 120 students from charter class

Justice Alito congratulates a new College of Law graduate.

Justice Alito congratulates a new College of Law graduate.

Belmont University’s College of Law celebrated the graduation of its charter class today as 120 students received their Juris Doctor degrees along with timely inspiration from commencement speaker and Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito. Belmont announced the opening of the College of Law on Oct. 7, 2009, one year after hosting the 2008 Town Hall Presidential Debate, and the charter cohort began classes in fall 2011. From enrolling with a median class LSAT of 154, the 2014 graduating Law class set the standard for Belmont lawyers to follow through classroom performance, co-curricular involvement and community service.

Belmont President Bob Fisher said, “We opened a College of Law because we believe it fits perfectly within Belmont’s mission to provide a transformative education that empowers civic engagement and creates change agents in our community and the broader world. This first class has undoubtedly exceeded expectations, and I’m both proud and honored to welcome Justice Alito to campus to give them a final charge into service.”

Encouraging his fellow graduates to “build a legacy of greatness,” Alexander H. Mills provided the valedictorian address for the College of Law Class of 2014, quoting from Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

Justice Alito used his commencement address to declare that the foundational backbone of this country could provide an appropriate source for the graduates’ future guiding principles. “The essential features of the Constitution and the legal system can lead us to ideals that are applicable to life… it separates matters that are essential from matters that are simply important. The same strategy is a good one to implement in our personal lives. It’s good to go through the mental process to identify what is essential and permanent in our lives, those things that matter most.”

Justice Alito also noted the brevity and accessibility of the Constitution, as well as the way it reflects the American culture of optimism. “The Constitution entrusts the future to the good sense and decency of the American people.”

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Judge Alberto Gonzales Appointed New Dean of Belmont University College of Law

Founding Dean Jeff Kinsler announces return to full-time faculty

Alberto GonzalesBelmont University announced today the appointment of Judge Alberto Gonzales, former U.S. Attorney General, to the position of dean for the College of Law, effective June 1. The news comes on the heels of Founding Dean Jeff Kinsler’s announcement that he has decided to become a full-time faculty member.

Belmont Provost Dr. Thomas Burns said, “Belmont University is incredibly grateful for the vision and commitment Dean Kinsler has shown these past five years to open and establish our College of Law as well as to lead us through the accreditation process. With his decision to transition to full-time teaching, I join the College of Law students, staff and faculty in welcoming Judge Gonzales to his new role as dean. His valuable expertise and classroom approach have been applauded repeatedly by our students, and everyone in the College is excited about the leadership he will bring as dean.”

Judge Gonzales joined Belmont Law in 2012 as the then-newly established Doyle Rogers Distinguished Chair of Law and has taught courses in Constitutional Law, Separation of Powers, National Security Law and First Amendment Law. His appointment to dean was approved by the College of Law faculty prior to the announcement. As dean Gonzales will serve as the chief academic and executive officer for Belmont’s College of Law and will be responsible for the programmatic leadership, financial management, personnel administration and planning and development for the College.

Gonzales said, “I am honored by this opportunity and grateful for the support of President Fisher and Dr. Burns. I look forward to working with the outstanding faculty, staff and students at Belmont College of Law.”

After attending the United States Air Force Academy, Alberto Gonzales graduated from Rice University (B.A.) and Harvard University (J.D.). Gonzales was nominated by President George W. Bush and confirmed by the United States Senate as the 80th Attorney General of the United States on February 3, 2005 and served in that capacity until September 2007. Previously, he served as a partner at a major Houston law firm (Vinson & Elkins) and held positions as Justice on the Supreme Court of Texas, Secretary of State (Texas) and Counsel to the President of the United States (2001-2005) in addition to his consulting and mediation practice.

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College of Law Hosts Tennessee Supreme Court for Three Appeals Cases

Tennessee Supreme CourtFrom its launch in 2009, Belmont’s College of Law has focused on the goal of graduating practice-ready attorneys who are prepared for today’s global legal market. With the College’s first commencement just three months away, Belmont Law showed again why it practices what it preaches… and teaches.

On Wednesday afternoon the Supreme Court of Tennessee heard oral arguments in three appeals in the Anne Lowry Russell Appellate Courtroom (Room 157) of the College of Law‘s Baskin Center. This was the first time the Tennessee Supreme Court had convened on Belmont’s campus to hear cases.

As the state’s court of last resort, the five Tennessee Supreme Court justices may accept appeals of civil and criminal cases from lower state courts. They also interpret the laws and constitutions of Tennessee and the United States. The Supreme Court may assume jurisdiction over undecided cases in the Court of Appeals or Court of Criminal Appeals when there is special need for an expedited decision

The three cases heard in the Baskin Center Wednesday involved tort, civil procedure, criminal law, criminal procedure and real property issues. College of Law Dean Jeff Kinsler said, “This was a wonderful learning opportunity for our students and a wonderful opportunity to showcase the law school and future Belmont lawyers to the legal community.”

Second-year law student Landon Breazeale added, “Having the Tennessee Supreme Court hear oral arguments at the College of Law was a tremendous honor for Belmont University and seemed to show support for the College of Law and its students and faculty. Also, the arguments provided a great opportunity for the students of the College of Law to see how the Court functioned and what it takes to stand as attorney before the Justices and present a case. ”

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Espy: ‘God at Work’ During Troubled Times

Mike EspyProminent attorney Mike Espy shared with students his rise to notoriety as well as the infamous fall that brought him closer to God during chapel on Wednesday.

“What happens when you run into trouble and you do everything you can to get out of it? There is no answer on your own timetable, and you fall deeper into the muck and mud. Faith is tested, really tested,” Espy said. “At your show down, God shows up, and together you show out.”

The Mississippi native ran for Congress in 1985 to represent a poor district where the people who would vote for him could not afford to donate to his campaign. At 29, he became the youngest House Representative and the first African-American Congressman elected in Mississippi since Reconstruction.  A decade later, President Bill Clinton appointed him to serve as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. The first African-American to hold that cabinet position, Espy said he was expected to “do nothing slowly,” but within days responded to deaths caused by under-cooked hamburgers at a national fast-food chain as well as a 500-year flood and negotiated tariff and trade quotas with other countries.

Then trouble came, and Espy was accused of receiving improper gifts, including football tickets, and was investigated by the FBI.

“I went from calling presidents and prime ministers to not being able to call a cab,” he said. (more…)

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