It was my privilege to be in the splendid courtroom of the Wisconsin Supreme Court yesterday (Monday, May 23) to move the admission of Marquette law graduates to the bar. They graduated this past weekend, so such admission was their privilege, by virtue of receiving our diploma, meeting the court’s curricular requirements, and satisfying its character and fitness standards. In looking for a prior such motion that I had made, I came upon the one from 2015, where I noted that it was the twelfth consecutive May that I had appeared before the court for this purpose. I seemed to expect to do this annually until I should no longer be dean. In fact, the “streak” soon ended, in 2016, when an injury prevented my appearance before the Court—and then of course, a few years later, there would be the pandemic. Even then, the Court, on paper in 2020 and in the Wisconsin Assembly chamber in 2021, went to great lengths to ensure the prompt admission of our graduates via the diploma privilege.
The 2022 end-of-year proceedings seemed more like old times, though with some new elements. We convened for our Hooding Ceremony this past Saturday evening in the elegant, historic Milwaukee Theatre, as for many years. Yet this year, it was also our Commencement Ceremony, as Marquette University President Michael R. Lovell had delegated to me the authority, on behalf of the Board of Trustees, to confer the J.D. degree on each of our graduating students. Hannah Chin, a graduate selected by her classmates, addressed the ca. 1,300 people in attendance, reminding us of all that our 2022 graduates have earned and gained throughout the past three difficult years. The commencement address was delivered by the federal government’s top lawyer before the U.S. Supreme Court: the Hon. Elizabeth B. Prelogar, solicitor general of the United States. Solicitor General Prelogar, in her first trip ever to Wisconsin, gave a substantial amount of wise counsel. Yet my own wisdom, in inviting her, you will permit me to say, seemed entirely confirmed by her unexpected but most welcome rousing endorsement of the “Oxford comma”—and her exhorting, if not quite enjoining, the graduates always to use it. Of course, Solicitor General Prelogar highlighted not just punctuation but also such (other) foundational topics as the need to put oneself in uncomfortable circumstances in order to grow professionally, the importance of being kind to those above and below oneself in any group, and the value of always carrying a notepad (see what I did there, including that last comma?). There was much to be learned from the evening’s guest addresses.
The completion of the program entitling one to a Marquette law degree is a substantial accomplishment, I always tell our graduates. This is so “in any era,” I said in my remarks this year. It did not seem necessary for me to engage in any larger discussion of the pandemic. Yet, truly, I extend particular kudos to the newest group of Marquette lawyers, and I express much gratitude to all involved in their education, graduation, and admission to the bar.