SIU School of Law Commencement Ceremony is May 6

May 03, 2022 , by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. – Carolyn B. Smoot, retired First Judicial Circuit judge and a 1983 Southern Illinois University School of Law alumna, will deliver the keynote address during law school commencement ceremonies on Friday, May 6.

The ceremony at 1 p.m. in Shryock Auditorium is for 72 graduates in the Class of 2022. There is no ticketing for guests, and guest seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. Ceremonies will be compliant with campus and state pandemic safety protocols.

Chancellor Austin A. Lane will confer degrees at the ceremony led by SIU School of Law Dean Camille Davidson.

“We welcome faculty, staff, families and friends to celebrate with our 2022 School of Law graduates,” Davidson said. “These graduates persevered with their legal education despite the difficulties associated with the pandemic. We wish them the best as they study for the bar examination this summer, and we look forward to seeing all of our graduates next year as we celebrate our 50th anniversary.”

The Class of 2022 selected James A. Jones II, who is from St. Louis, to be the class speaker. Jones has a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s degree in urban and regional planning, both from Jackson State University. During law school, he focused on criminal justice reform efforts through his work with the SIU Law Journal and his honors capstone project. After graduation, Jones plans to return to St. Louis and work in the commercial real estate practice group with Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner.

Sheila Simon, an assistant professor of law, will be the faculty speaker. 

The ceremony marks the 46th anniversary of the law school’s first graduating class of 1976. The law school will celebrate its 50th anniversary of its founding in 2023.

Smoot to deliver keynote address

Smoot was an attorney for 27 years before her judicial appointment in December 2010, where she was the first female circuit judge in Williamson County and second female judge in the First Judicial Circuit. Her legal career included work as an assistant state’s attorney in Williamson County and a private practice focusing on family law, probate law, mediation and adoptions. She also taught in and was director of SIU’s paralegal studies program. She received the law school’s Women in Leadership Lifetime Achievement Award in January 2020.

Ceremony will also recognize Ukrainian attorneys

Emil Kurbedinov, an outspoken Ukrainian lawyer from Crimea who has been fighting for the human rights of all Ukrainian people since Russia’s invasion of Crimea in 2014, along with other Ukrainian attorneys, will be recognized with the school’s Rule of Law citation. The citation is a formal recognition by law school faculty of the important tradition of the legal profession that “requires lawyers to stand firm in support of liberty and justice in the face of oppression and, by their words and actions, to honor and support the Rule of Law, even at great personal risk.”

A commencement hood and scroll will be placed on an empty chair to symbolize attorneys who are suffering for their actions as legal advocates.

According to the citation, Kurbedinov represents the interests of Crimean prisoners held captive by Russian authorities, including Ukrainian sailors captured by Russian soldiers in 2018, along with others who say they have been tortured by the occupying Russian authorities or abducted. Kurbedinov has been arrested, interrogated and imprisoned for allegedly displaying offensive symbols and for advocating against the occupiers. The Russian government also has attempted to have Kurbedinov disbarred for his work on behalf of these Ukrainians. Human rights organizations such as Front Line Defenders and the Human Rights House have denounced Russia’s persecution of  Kurbedinov and other Ukrainian lawyers and human rights defenders.