American Bar Association Spirit of Excellence Award Honors Two Northwest Arkansans
Posted on January 30, 2013
The Dean of the University of Arkansas School of Law will receive the American Bar Association Spirit of Excellence Award for promoting a more racially and ethnically diverse legal profession. Dean Stacy L. Leeds will be recognized at the American Bar Association midyear meeting in Dallas on February 8, 2013.The Spirit of Excellence Awards celebrate the efforts and accomplishments of lawyers who work to promote a more racially and ethnically diverse legal profession. Awards are presented to lawyers who excel in their professional settings; who personify excellence on the national, state, or local level; and who have demonstrated a commitment to racial and ethnic diversity in the legal profession.
“Dean Leeds is a trailblazer as the first American Indian woman to serve as a Dean of a law school,” said Reginald M. Turner, chair of the American Bar Association Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession.
Leeds is one of six honorees who will be recognized with the 2013 Spirit of Excellence Award. The other honorees are:
- Dr. Walter L. Sutton, Jr., Associate General Counsel – Legal Administration and External Relations for Walmart Stores, Inc.
- M. Javade Chaudhri, Executive Vice President and General Counsel, Sempra Energy
- Myles V. Lynk, Peter Kiewit Foundation Professor of Law and the Legal Professor, Arizona State University Sandra Day O’Connor School of Law
- Jenny Rivera, Professor of Law, Director of the Center for Latino and Latina Rights and Equality, CUNY School of Law
- Thomas A. Saenz, President and General Counsel, MALDEF
“It is very rare, and indeed an honor, for the American Bar Association to select two recipients in the same year from the same state,” Dean Leeds said. “I am particularly pleased to share this honor with Dr. Sutton, given how Walmart has provided so many opportunities for our student externs and law school graduates.”
Northwest Arkansas’s other recipient, Dr. Walter L. Sutton, Jr., is an internal advocate for diversity initiatives for Walmart’s legal department. He also collaborates with external stakeholders to promote diversity within the legal profession and the pipeline for future attorneys. Sutton was the first African-American to receive a doctorate from the University of Texas at Dallas; the first African-American in Tenneco Oil Co.’s legal department; and the first African-American to oversee the Environmental Protection Agency Regional Counsel’s office in Dallas. Prior to joining Walmart in 2005, Sutton practiced law for 35 years in Detroit; Houston; Washington, DC; and Dallas.
Sutton currently serves as Chair of the National Bar Institute Board of Directors. He also serves on the ABA Diversity Center Board. In addition, he serves as Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Wiley College (“Home of the Great Debaters”), a historically Black college in Marshall, TX.
Sutton earned his B.S. in Business Administration from the University of Denver, his Juris Doctor from the University of Michigan Law School, his MBA from the University of Dallas, and his Ph.D. in Management Science from the University of Texas at Dallas.
This is the second year in a row a faculty member of the University of Arkansas School of Law received the Spirit of Excellence Award. In 2012, Dean Emeritus and Nathan G. Gordon Professor of Law Cynthia Nance was named a recipient of the Spirit of Excellence Award.
Leeds became dean of the University of Arkansas School of Law on July 1, 2011. In her previous role at the Kansas School of Law she served as a professor, as interim associate dean for academic affairs and as director of the Tribal Law and Government Center. Prior to joining Kansas, she was a professor and director of the Northern Plains Indian Law Center at the University of North Dakota School of Law. She began her career of teaching law at the University of Wisconsin School of Law, where she served as a William H. Hastie Fellow. She received her Master of Laws degree from the University of Wisconsin, her Juris Doctor from the University of Tulsa, her Master of Business Administration from the University of Tennessee and her Bachelor of Arts degree from Washington University in St. Louis.
She has focused her teaching and extensive research on property, natural resources, and American Indian law.
Among her many honors, Leeds was awarded the prestigious Fletcher Fellowship to support her work on tribal sovereignty and citizenship issues. As a Fletcher Fellow, she was named a nonresident fellow of the W.E.B. DuBois Institute at Harvard University during the 2008-09 academic year. In addition, she has served as a judge for many tribes including the Cherokee Nation, where she was the first woman and youngest person to ever serve as a Supreme Court Justice.
Leeds was recently appointed to a three-person panel to arbitrate a dispute between the Seneca Indian Nation and New York State over $460 million in gambling profits. In addition, she is one of five commissioners of the Secretarial Commission on Indian Trust Administration and Reform, established by Dept. of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the Department’s management and administration of nearly $4 billion in American Indian trust assets over two years and to offer recommendations on improvements in the future.
Leeds is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation.
The ABA Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession is a catalyst to change the legal profession to reflect the society it serves. It helps racially and ethnically diverse lawyers advance their careers and standing in the profession. Its leadership, programs and information help the profession understand and eliminate racism, bigotry and discrimination. The Commission works to increase racial and ethnic diversity in the legal profession, and thus enrich it.
With nearly 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is the world’s largest voluntary professional membership organization in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law.