Duke Law School’s 2019 graduates have honored seven of their classmates with Justin Miller Awards, which reflect excellence in leadership, integrity, intellectual curiosity, citizenship, and engagement with the student body. The awards honor the example and memory of Justin Miller, the Law School’s dean from 1930 to 1934, who implemented values that remain foundational to the Duke Blueprint to LEAD and to the Duke Law experience.
The Justin Miller Awards were presented at the Graduation Gala on May 9, which kicked off festivities that culminate with the Law School’s Graduation Convocation on May 11 and Duke University’s graduation ceremony on May 12.
South Moore received the Citizenship Award, which acknowledges an individual with a “genuine enthusiasm” for the Law School community who brings people together in constructive ways and “common ground in mentoring relationships with others.” Presenter Sam Howe said the description perfectly fits Moore, who he described as “incredibly kind, fun, and intelligent” and as having “a talent for engaging with people from different backgrounds, reminding them of their strengths, and encouraging them to push themselves.”
Howe, whose tribute incorporated comments from multiple nominators, listed Moore’s many activities at and contributions to Duke Law: serving as managing editor of the Duke Law Journal (alongside Howe as editor-in-chief); advocating on behalf of wrongfully convicted prisoners through the Innocence Project; working on behalf of disadvantaged children in Durham through the Children’s Law Clinic and through service as a guardian ad litem; helping to develop the Public Interest and Public Service Certificate program and, as president of the Government and Public Service (GPS) Board during his second year, expanding the mentorship and career advice options for its membership.
“Not only has he blazed a trail for future classes of government and public interest students, but he has invested time and energy into making sure that those who come after him have the tools to continue growing the community,” said Howe, who also praised Moore’s leadership in recognizing and supporting those around him. “In happy times or sad, he is always the point person ensuring that students took a moment to sign a card, send flowers, or just check in on someone.”
Jami King received the Intellectual Curiosity Award, which honors demonstration of a genuine love of learning and an “intellectual hunger” and passion for the law that the recipient encourages in others.
Calling King a “fantastic” classmate who “attends every class engaged and excited to learn about the law,” presenter Sophia Durand listed some of King’s many scholarly achievements: serving as a Margolis Scholar, a Cutler Fellow, online editor for DLJ, and as teaching assistant Professor Thomas Metzloff's Distinctive Aspects of U.S. Law course, all while pursuing an LLM in international and comparative law along with her JD.
“In addition to being a brilliant student with a wealth of knowledge, [she] is deeply committed to learning from and teaching others,” said Durand. “The questions [she] asks add another layer of nuance to class discussions and never fail to challenge both classmates and professors to think more deeply about the material. … She always adds to the conversation and engaging with her is always such a pleasure.”
Dan Pham and Chris DiNardo received Integrity Awards, which honor “courageous” individuals of strong principles and solid and altruistic characters who demonstrate appreciation for honesty and justice and the ability to instill those qualities in others.
Presenter Matt Eible described Pham as selfless, deeply committed to serving others and confident in his ability to help, and a reliable and trustworthy friend who plays “an outsized role” in the Duke Law community. “He maintains a positive attitude regardless of the stress that he faces and never loses sight of what is most important in obtaining justice or helping those most in need,” Eible said.
“He is a tireless worker, always optimistic, and has done fantastic work in the Civil Justice Clinic and International Human Rights Clinic, while leading the Duke Immigrant and Refugee Project and on service spring break trips,” Eible said. “He is a committed and fierce advocate for the Duke Law Immigrant and Refugee Project and has been a strong proponent for expanding the immigration curriculum here at Duke Law. In addition to being one of the most committed public interest students here at Duke, he also is an open, kind, and generous soul.”
Presenter Meredith George said DiNardo “continuously puts others first, both personally and professionally,” and treats everyone with respect and kindness. She noted his engagement with clinics and pro bono organizations throughout his time at Duke Law, and his volunteer efforts both on campus and off. “From the moment he entered law school, he showed his commitment to advancing the interests of the underrepresented,” she said. She commended his organization of the first brake light clinic to help people avoid being pulled over for broken tail lights. Not only did the event help 20 people get new tail lights and avoid potential negative police interactions, but also engaged about 40 students in the project.
In April, DiNardo also won the Richard Lin Award from the Duke Bar Association (DBA), which recognizes character and actions that reach across the Law School community, without a leadership position or title. Students cited his coordination of community service events, leadership of ad-hoc seminars, and mentorship of 1Ls and 2Ls, including his assistance with mock interviews for public defense positions.
“Chris genuinely cares about social issues because he wants the world to be a better place and he is truly going to change the world one day,” George said.
Armani Abreu and Tanya Smith shared the Leadership Award, which honors service to the Law School and/or the greater Durham community, initiative, and leadership by example.
Presenter Ting Liu praised Smith for her commitment to mentoring and helping others — and taking every meeting requested by a fellow student. “Whether it’s about becoming more comfortable with cold calls, finding research, or prepping students for interviews with firms, there is no hesitation to offer help and advice,” Liu said. “[She] spends hours each week meeting with students to provide guidance, and she does all of this quietly.” Smith “takes ownership of everything she does and leads by example,” Liu added. “There are so many of us here who have her to thank for constant encouragement, attorney introductions, academic advice, and for being a dependable smile in the halls no matter what’s going on in her life or ours.”
Liu called Smith, whose Law School activities included serving as DBA academic chair, a First Generation Professionals mentor, Law & Entrepreneurship Society director of communications, admissions recruiting assistant, and DLJ membership editor, “an instrumental leader in the classroom and out,” and as “loved” at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business as at Duke Law. “Tanya Smith consistently demonstrates selflessness, generosity, and an eagerness to help,” Liu said. “Across all classes, and even across schools … so many students, especially women in the Law School, respect and look up to our Justin Miller Leadership Award winner.”
In April, Smith also won DBA’s “Outstanding Contribution to the Duke Law Community Award,” which serves as recognition of a student who, through their words, actions, and leadership positions has given their time and energy to build the Duke Law community.
Presenting the award to Abreu, who served as DBA president after two years on the executive board, Emani Walks said he “sets such a positive example, one that is compassionate, judgement-free, and encouraging to others.” Virtually everyone at Duke Law “knows of, trusts, and relies upon” Abreu. “His ability to make friends transcends bounds of age, gender, nationality, and background.”
Abreu’s ability to engage with different people and their stories contributed to his effectiveness as DBA president, after serving as treasurer — and as vice-president of the Hispanic law Students Association — during his second year. “He improved our experience in big ways and in small ways,” she said. “He is a dedicated leader and advocate on behalf of the entire Duke Law student body. I am incredibly grateful that he has been my friend and an advocate for all of us, and I’ll be proud to graduate with him on Saturday.”
Maria Alice Dias, who served as LLM representative on the DBA board, received the LLM Leadership Award, which honors such attributes as leadership within and concern for the international LLM class, efforts at promoting integration of LLM and JD students, and engagement both with academics and with Law School organization and activities.
Presenter Maxime Goldmann said Dias was successful in all respects, noting that she emerged as a class leader early; he lauded her initiative in creating an LLM WhatsApp group chat and gathering students to mingle even before they began their Duke Law orientation. She “took care of the LLM class” throughout the year, he said, keeping them abreast of important information and letting all know about events of academic and social interest both at Duke Law and at other schools.
“She has been a helping hand for integration and has always been willing to go far and above to help” all of her classmates, Goldmann said. “She has been such an incredible person.”
In addition to their awards, each of the Justin Miller Award winners received a recently published book selected by a research librarian at the Goodson Law Library to conform to their individual areas of legal interest, study, and service.