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Story: Lacey Collier Speaks at Graduation Ceremony

Lacey Collier, first College of Law graduate appointed to the federal bench, inspires December Graduates

The Honorable Lacey Collier, the first federal district judge to graduate from Florida State University College of Law, spoke at the law school's December 15, 2001, graduation ceremony.

An Alabama native, Judge Collier enrolled in the Naval flight school in Pensacola in 1955, and had achieved the rank of Lieutenant Commander by the time of his retirement in 1975. According to Collier, his military service provided him the confidence to enroll at FSU College of Law as an older student in 1975. Collier's law school years were highlighted by work for the state attorney's office in Pensacola prior to his 1977 graduation.

In Collier's introduction, Dean Donald Weidner noted that Collier was appointed to a vacant circuit court seat in 1984, and just seven years later he applied for, and was selected as, federal judgeship for the Northern District of Florida. Weidner, said, "Believe me, getting appointed to a federal judgeship after only fourteen years after graduation is an extremely fast track."

Judge Collier began his message to graduates by saying that the nation would forever live in the horror of the events of that day. "Though officials indicate that everyone should go on living their lives, living it as you normally would have may not be enough now!

Collier said that now lawyers will need to continue using law as an effective control to terror. "The practice of law is a centuries old discipline," he said. "It is essential to civilization as an instrument of justice. Through the practice of law, you can use your sense of logic to solve disputes, offer a voice to the mutant, and find resolution in the face of chaos. As graduating students, about to enter the world of lawyering, you've inherited a dilapidated canvas that has potential for being a great masterpiece."

The judge went on to say that "Congress has become active in the aftermath of September 11. He said they have changed laws that you will be called upon to defend. You will be applying these laws, as well, and how you do that will be a reflection of our system of law. You and the entire law community will be the looking glass through which people judge the justice system," Collier continued.

In closing, Collier talked about ethical standards. He asked the College of Law graduates to think about how they would have arranged their affairs as a lawyer before September 11, and then consider how they could better their work in the future. "Think about how you can be a better person, not just a better lawyer. Take the time to make well-reasoned arguments. Have respect for yourself and how you interpret the law, and hold your colleagues to those same standards," he said. "Many of you will say that you would do these things anyway, though I say to you, 'Do them better.' When you take the oath to practice law, you will be marked. Have the courage to live by the rules of your profession with the knowledge that you have the best legal education possible."

 

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