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Women's Law Caucus Honors UK Law Professor and Retired Judge

April 8, 2019
The University of Kentucky College of Law Women’s Law Caucus hosted its annual Spring Luncheon this month at the Hilary J. Boone Center.  Alumni and distinguished members of the legal profession joined students, faculty, and staff to recognize retired judge Janet Stumbo and Professor Jane Bloom Grisé. 

Jane Bloom Grisé is the Director of Academic Enhancement and Assistant Professor of Legal Research and Writing at UK Law.  Prior to joining UK Law, she was in private practice specializing in international adoption law. Before moving to Lexington, she was an Assistant United States Attorney in the Southern District of New York.  As Deputy Chief of the Civil Division as well as Chief of the Civil Rights Unit, she handled complex civil rights cases initiated by the United States as well as a variety of civil litigation and appeals.  Before joining the U.S. Attorney’s Office, she served as Managing Attorney of Mid-Hudson Legal Services in Poughkeepsie, New York.  In that office, she handled trial and appellate cases in all New York and federal courts.  In addition, she litigated and argued Juidice v. Vail before the United States Supreme Court. Before joining Mid-Hudson Legal Services, Professor Grise served as a Law Clerk for Judge Jack Day at the Ohio Court of Appeals.

Professor Grisé shared that when she went to law school at the University of Wisconsin, her class was comprised of 5% females and there was one female law professor.  Her law school experience and career were full of twists and turns, all of which led her through her comprehensive professional and personal paths and on unexpected adventures.

“The legal profession is changing, and the only thing that is certain is that law firms are not going to look the same in five or 10 years,” said Professor Grisé.  “Be open to new things.  Try to get jobs where you can gain different perspectives.  Good Lawyers have to be able to see all perspectives,” according to Professor Grisé.   She indicated that her work at a U.S. Attorney’s office defending cases made her a better plaintiffs’ lawyer.  “If interested in criminal law, try out the district attorney’s office as well as the public defender’s office,” said Professor Grisé.  “The bottom line here is being a lawyer is an amazing opportunity to learn, to grow, to help other people, and to do all different kinds of things.  Embrace uncertainty and just enjoy the ride.”

Retired judge Janet Stumbo is a UK Law graduate and is the first woman from the 7th Appellate District to be elected to the Kentucky Court of Appeals, where she served from 1989 to 1993.  She was then the first women elected to the Kentucky Supreme  Court, where she served until 2004.  Judge Stumbo was elected to the Kentucky Court of Appeals for a second time in November 2006 and took the bench on January 1, 2007.  She was re-elected in 2014 and retired from the bench at the end of 2017.

Judge Stumbo spoke of her professional and personal experiences along her pathway and also highlighted the unexpected twists and turns she experienced.  She said of her position with the Kentucky Supreme Court, “It was the best job I’ve ever had because it did demand so much of me, so much of the rest of the court.  We had to talk out each issue at length and firmly establish what we were doing.  It was really exciting work.”  She, too, encouraged attendees to explore various pathways in their professional and personal life.  “We all need to get out and do something new this year and in the coming years because you guys are young, and you are going to be having kids and looking at the world and thinking ‘What kind of world are my children going to have to live in? What kind of economy is there going to be? What kind of social structure is there going to be?  How can I make a difference?’  And each and every one of you can make difference and you can do it by doing something unexpected. There is a path out there for you to make difference, so get out there and make a difference!”

David A. Brennen, dean of UK Law joined the Women’s Law Caucus in this celebration of women in the legal profession.  He  informed attendees that UK Law’s student body is at the highest percentage of women that the College has seen in the past 10 years at 47 percent. “We are also experiencing growth in the percentage of women who are in leadership roles within our student organizations, this academic year having 18 women serving as president out of the 29 active student organizations,” said Dean Brennen.

Beginning at next year’s Women’s Law Caucus Spring Luncheon, the Rebecca Westerfield Award for Excellence in Leadership will be awarded to a rising  third-year law student who has demonstrated excellence in leadership on campus, in the civic sphere, in the arts or in scholarly research and writing.  Rebecca Westerfield is a 1975 graduate of UK Law and is a former Jefferson County Circuit Court judge.  She moved to California in 1992 and became a founding member of JAMS (Judicial Arbitration and Mediation Services) on whose Board she now sits.

The annual celebration of the contributions of women in the legal profession is one of the organization’s largest, most successful events of the year.

The Women’s Law Caucus is a student organization at UK Law devoted to celebrating and fostering the contributions of women in the legal field.  They lead a mentorship program with area attorneys, bring awareness to domestic and sexual violence, provide opportunities for personal and professional development, and host social and networking events in Lexington.