UM Law Faculty and Staff Recognized for Excellence

OXFORD, Miss. – Attending the University of Mississippi School of Law means learning from award-winning faculty and staff. In the 2018-19 academic year, six faculty and staff members were recognized with national and statewide honors.

The latest award bestowed upon a UM Law faculty member came during commencement on May 11. Ron Rychlak, professor of law and Jamie L. Whitten Chair of Law and Government, was this year’s recipient of the Distinguished Research and Creative Achievement Award.

The award is the university’s highest honor for research. Rychlak has been a very active scholar through writing, publishing and research. He has been author, co-author or editor of 11 books. Additionally, he has penned more than 90 academic papers on topics spanning the field, including criminal law, environmental law, international law, gambling law, sports law and the study of religion in times of war.

“This award illustrates the wonderful scholarly activity that occurs daily at the School of Law,” said UM Law Dean Susan Duncan. “We have a highly productive faculty publishing in top journals, writing books and contributing to the development of the law. Our students also publish in our own journals and journals across the nation and the world at a far higher rate than law students at other schools.

“Professors like professor Rychlak mentor and guide our students in these efforts. This award acknowledges the hard work our faculty and students do every day.”

Several other faculty and staff members have also been recognized for their work this past academic year.

Sandra Cox-McCarty, associate dean for administration and diversity initiatives in the University of Mississippi School of Law, was among 30 recipients of the Education, Diversity and Greater Equality (EDGE) awards given by the Council of Legal Education Opportunity in November. She became involved with the organization as a law student at Mississippi College and has served as a teaching assistant during CLEO’s pre-law institute at the University of Tennessee.

Her involvement and passion for the organization, which aims to increase minority representation in the field of law, led to her bringing the pre-law summer institute to UM Law. During the four years it was held on campus, 2012-15, nearly 200 students participated.

Cox-McCarty was also honored in March for her dedication to diversity and inclusion by the board of trustees of Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning. She was the recipient of its annual Excellence in Diversity Award.

For more than 27 years, she has worked diligently to create an atmosphere of inclusivity and tolerance. Cox-McCarty joined the law school in 1992 and has dedicated her career to making the law school a diverse and inclusive environment for all students. Her main role is dealing with administrative day-to-day aspects of the school. However, she does much more than that for students, the school and the university behind the scenes. She coordinates HBCU visits to the law school and develops relationships with those institutions through pre-law initiatives. In service, she mentors prospective law students and continues to serve as adviser for the Undergraduate Black Law Students Association.

In April, Karen Peairs, assistant director of Career Services at the law school, and David Calder, clinical professor and director of the Child Advocacy Clinic, were the staff and faculty recipients of the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award, the McLean Institute and university’s highest honor of service.

Calder is the Director of the Child Advocacy Clinic, which trains law students to serve as guardians ad litem, who are appointed by courts as special advocates to protect the interests of children who are victims of abuse or neglect. Calder regularly speaks at trainings for attorneys and child advocates on child protection issues.

Calder also serves as a member on multiple commissions and task forces, and he consults the Mississippi Judicial College, an entity at the university that trains all state judges, on child advocacy issues. His projects include working on handbooks for guardians ad litem in Youth Court and Chancery Court.

His passion for child advocacy has also led him to work on improving access to the courts to enable pro se litigants to represent themselves on simple issues. Additionally, Calder has provided free legal representation to indigent parties.

Peairs was also a recipient of the Sullivan award. In addition to serving law students through Career Services, Peairs donates her time to the Magnolia Bar Association. She also introduced statewide Restoration Day Expungement Clinics in north Mississippi, where students and local attorneys help members of the public expunge their criminal records.

Additionally, she solicited plaintiffs on behalf of the ACLU of Mississippi’s lawsuit to allow felons who have paid their debt to society to once again have the right to vote. Peairs served as volunteer counsel for the Mississippi Center for Justice and is a board member of North Mississippi Rural Legal Services. She helps facilitate protections for descendants to ensure there is no loss of land in the absence of a will.

This year, Peairs developed a Pro Bono Lawyers United with Students pilot program in partnership with the Mississippi Access to Justice Commission. The goal of the program is to place second and third year law students with practicing attorneys during wintersession to assist with the state’s need for legal services.

Macey Edmondson, the law school’s assistant dean for student affairs, was recognized during Disability History Month with the University’s Access Award.

Student Disability Services recognizes faculty and staff members who go above and beyond in their support of students with disability.

On April 11, MacArthur Justice Clinic Director and Assistant Professor of Law Cliff Johnson was inducted as a Mississippi Bar Foundation Fellow. Only 10% of lawyers in the state are eligible for membership as a fellow, and it is the Foundation’s highest honor.

Selection as a fellow means the attorney is recognized by their peers for having achieved the highest level of professionalism, competence and leadership. According to the Foundation, fellows are selected for membership based not only on their excellence as a lawyer but also by their dedication and service to the public and profession.

Also in April, UM Law Registrar Eddie Upton was honored for his dedication with the National Network of Law School Officers 2019 Vanguard Award.

The award recognizes the outstanding contributions of a law school officer who uses innovative methods in transforming academic services for students. More than that, the Vanguard Award recognizes outstanding leadership and effective administration.

Upton has served as the law school’s registrar for the last seven years. During that time, he designed a database to handle all reporting and processing requirements for students.

“Our faculty and staff work diligently on behalf of our students, and I am so pleased they have been recognized for their efforts,” Duncan said. “Everyone at the law school truly cares about their work and service to students, and I continue to be impressed daily by these wonderful colleagues.”