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California Western School of Law Celebrates 2024 Commencement

Apr 29 2024
CWSL students celebrating their 2024 commencement.
CWSL students celebrating their 2024 commencement.

SAN DIEGO (April 29, 2024) – Thousands of friends, family members, mentors, and other guests came to Spreckels Organ Pavilion in Balboa Park to celebrate California Western School of Law (CWSL)’s Class of 2024 and witness their transformation from students to alumni. 212 CWSL graduates earned their Juris Doctor degrees, taking the last law school step into careers as lawyers and advocates. 

CWSL President and Dean Sean M. Scott opened the festivities by recognizing the faculty members who received this year’s Student Honors, in recognition of their excellent service to the law school: Jessica Fink, received the Professor of the Year Award and the Outstanding Lecturer Award; Pooja Dadhania, received the First-Year Professor of the Year, and Paul Parisi, received the Adjunct Professor of the Year Award. Dean Scott also bid a fond farewell to Professors Bob Bohrer and Neils Schaumann as they enter retirement after decades of service to the CWSL community. 

Graduating J.D. student Mona Moazzaz spoke thoughtfully about the unique historical moment this class is graduating into, “when the definition of community has widened to encompass the entire globe.” She commented that as lawyers, this class will be “central characters in contributing a share of what humanity needs today— driving new policies to prevent oppression, opening doors to truth-seeking, casting a light on accountability, giving a voice to the voiceless.” Mona ended by saying that with J.D.’s in hand, “our powers are truly limitless.”

This year’s commencement speaker, San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan, complimented California Western faculty “who have invested life and soul into growing this community” and to the family and friends in attendance for supporting the graduates through their long law school journey— “we all need someone who believes in us.” 

District Attorney Stephan shared two moving stories about what drew her to legal work. First, she told the story of her grandmother Therese who was a refugee who ended up in this country that “she came to love deeply.” Reflecting on what she had experienced, Therese taught her granddaughter, “Someone can come and take your material riches, but they can never take away the richness of your soul—that stays with you.” The second story, which DA Stephan said was the core inspiration for her career of over 30 years in criminal prosecution, was picking up a National Geographic at the age of twelve and seeing an image of a girl living in Socotra, Yemen: “she looked to be about my age, but she had a look of terror, fear, and hopelessness. At that moment, I knew that the rest of my life would be about taking away that look from people’s eyes.” 

DA Stephen then offered her Three C’s of success to the graduates: Character, Competence, and Courage. She implored the graduates to have strong character: to be trustworthy, “to stay on the side of clear right,” and to act with integrity. Regarding competence, she said that “being prepared beats everything else; it’s the great equalizer.” And on courage, she said that “it is the secret ingredient;” she quoted Maya Angelou, who said that “without courage, you cannot practice any other virtue consistently.” 

To conclude her remarks, DA Stephan gave the message to the graduates that the work of justice is some of the most vital work that can done, because, she said, “Justice is a core craving of humankind. More than food and water, people want justice. For justice, people are willing to sacrifice everything.” With the seriousness of the profession in mind, DA Stephan said that the graduates should see their degrees as “a lifetime commission to do justice, which will make your practice of the law not just a profession but a calling.” 

Professors William J. Aceves, Daniel B. Yeager, and Hannah Brenner-Johnson then read the names of the graduates, who eagerly crossed the stage before their cheering friends, family, and peers. When all the names had been read, Dean Scott asked the students to stand, officially conferred the title of Juris Doctor and asking them to turn their tassels—to which, the graduates and the entire audience joyously applauded.  

Before closing the ceremony, Dean Scott offered her final reflections for the students: 

“I wish you a career that is long and fulfilling. I hope that when you are in practice that you will soften the hard edges of the law with compassion, for law without compassion is tyranny. I hope that you will honor the human dignity of your clients, and will treat your colleagues with respect, even those, or especially those, who oppose you. I hope that you will remain civil in the face of incivility, and principled in the face of expediency. 

“I wish for you all a life of purpose, which includes, but is not limited to, the practice of law. As you enter the next stage of your career, you will carry with you the knowledge, skills, perspective, and values you developed during your years at California Western. We look forward to celebrating many future successes with you as you build rewarding careers in the law.” 

Having completed law school, the graduates began their own celebrations, embracing family and peers, snapping group selfies, and expressing gratitude to their faculty mentors before heading off, fully equipped by their education and experiences at  California Western School of Law.