The scene at Commencement Convocation

~ Congratulations to the Legal Studies Class of 2021! ~

Click here to view Our Amazing Legal Studies Graduates!

Remarks from Legal Studies Director, Associate Dean Jonathan Marshall:

Saturday, May 15 commemorates the 41st graduating class from the UC Berkeley Legal Studies Program. Last year at this time we all had hoped that the Covid-19 pandemic would be behind us and that we could gather for in-person commencement exercises on the Berkeley campus. But even as we in the United States begin to emerge from the pandemic because of miraculously effective vaccines, much of the rest of the world labors in the shadow of a spreading disease and a lack of those same vaccines.

The past year and a half has taught us about inequality, precarity, violence, and fear. It has also taught us about hope, science, the power of cooperation and collective action, and about what law ought to mean in a democratic society. We may be at a place where we can address the big problems that the pandemic forced us as a society to confront anew, including systemic racism, state violence, precarious and unsafe employment, unequal access to health care, climate change–the list is long. One of the great things about teaching in the Legal Studies Program is that I am reassured that you are ready, willing, and able, to do the work of solving those problems.

Still, Covid-19 has been a disruption unlike any other people alive today have encountered. Some of you who came as transfer students are graduating having spent only one semester on our beautiful campus. It has been hard for all of us to make and sustain the connections that make UC Berkeley such a transformative place. Even more than last year, all of you, graduates and continuing students alike, deserve a commendation for perseverance and learning even when learning was incredibly difficult.

Even though we are asynchronous and online, Legal Studies wants to recognize the Class of 2021 for its grit and achievements. The students of the Class of 2021 strove to gain admission to UC Berkeley, undertook an ambitious program of study, worked hard to succeed in it, and did much of that during a pandemic. Legal Studies majors chose to engage with such basic and enduring values as fairness, rights, justice, inclusion, and freedom, and to consider the manner in which – and the extent to which – the institutions of law have been able to fulfill the goals and aspirations that our society invests in the law and its complex processes.

No one gets to college and certainly no one succeeds in college without the help, the encouragement, and the support of others.  Such support often comes in the form of checks, cash and clean laundry; but no less often – and no less critically – it comes in the form of patience, tolerance and love. Legal Studies salutes the families, friends, teachers, and everyone else who supported the students in the Class of 2021.

Legal Studies is a major that crosses boundaries and attracts all sorts of students. I would like to recognize several of the many types of students who make up Legal Studies for their achievement–transfer students, military veterans, student parents, re-entry students, formerly incarcerated students, students who are the first in your family to complete college – congratulations on doing all of that, and successfully completing your degrees in Legal Studies.

The Legal Studies Program also relies on its outstanding staff and Graduate Student Instructors to organize, teach, and assess classes. I want to recognize Lauri La Pointe, the Legal Studies Advisor, for humanizing the Cal bureaucracy and creating a home away from home for many of you; Erika Espinoza, the Legal Studies Scheduler, for organizing classes and being a friendly face up on Piedmont Avenue; and Yvette Cooper, our money person, for helping us with all sorts of other logistical issues.

Legal Studies graduates know how important our Graduate Student Instructors are. They work closely with our students in advancing their written and verbal communication skills, and share with Legal Studies students their own expert knowledge about legality, often in rich, one-on-one conversations. Each year, Legal Studies students and faculty identify graduate student instructors as outstanding teachers and mentors. In 2021, those Outstanding Graduate Student Instructors are Kyneshawau Hurd, Kyle Deland, Eduardo Bautista Duran, and Bonnie Cherry. Thank you for helping our students succeed in the program and at Berkeley.

Every year at commencement, the faculty signify its great respect for the accomplishments of the entire graduating class by giving special recognition to the top five graduates (selected by their overall GPA) in the major. One of the top five is then selected to receive the Departmental Citation, and another is selected to give the student commencement speech.

Before introducing the Departmental Citation recipient and the Student Commencement Speaker, I want to introduce the three additional finalists.

Clara Bishop is a double major in Social Welfare and Legal Studies, with a minor in Global Poverty and Practice. During her time at Berkeley she has chaired the ASUC Intimate Partner Violence Commission; served as the Vice President of Philanthropy and then Chapter President at her sorority; and guided UC Berkeley’s violence prevention and survivor support initiatives on the Student Advisory Board for the PATH to Care Center and the Chancellor’s Coordinated Community Review Team for Sexual and Gender-Based Violence and Misconduct. She led the way in developing a Covid-19 response for her sorority to prevent infection (with 100% success), provide financial relief, and prevent displacement and staff layoffs. Off campus, Clara spent a summer as an intern for Representative Adam Schiff, which inspired her to write an Honors Thesis on regulating politically driven “deepfakes” on social media. She plans to spend some time in Washington DC in the non-profit or political worlds before returning to school for a graduate degree.

Rotem Litinski is a first-generation college student who came to Berkeley with a broad menu of interests and majored in Legal Studies after taking a Freshman/Sophomore seminar with Prof. Alan Pomerantz on social and moral issues and the U.S. Constitution, which showed her that the law is not merely a way to incentivize orderly behavior or construct deviance; the law also enshrines a moral code, protections, and fundamental values. At Berkeley she joined the YWCA Girls Group Mentoring Program for middle school girls and served as campus ambassador for the Peace Corps. Off campus, Rotem has worked to help self-represented litigants in trial court, work on criminal justice reform at the San Francisco District Attorney’s office, and on civil rights at the American Bar Association. She leaves Berkeley feeling prepared to work in the legal field after graduation and then to attend law school and practice law.

Mireya Napoles transferred to UC Berkeley after rediscovering her interest in law, which she had first developed in high school through her participation in the San Francisco Police Activities League Cadet Program. She declared the Legal Studies major only to have everything go remote a semester later. As a student she continued to work at the family hardware store and volunteer at the Telegraph Hill Neighborhood Center in San Francisco. She hopes to spend her post-graduation year in the AmeriCorps program, after which she is interested in continuing in non-profit or public service work as a social worker or probation officer.

This year’s Departmental Citation goes to Nina Perez-Morales. Nina also transferred to UC Berkeley from community college, where she was a full-time student and a part-time volunteer, all while working full-time to cover the costs of college. Her professors, counselors, and program staffers in community college gave her the time and support she needed to get to Berkeley, and she is grateful to them. Having been there, Nina worked as a mentor for community college students who were applying to transfer into the UC system. At Berkeley, she has been an active member of the Cal chapter of the ACLU and has worked on its criminal justice committee, where she focused on inmate rights and prison abolition. Nina has also organized speakers for Women in Politics at Berkeley. This semester she has been busy completing her Honors Thesis, “Transforming Society and Centering Community: Abolition of the Prison Industrial Complex from the Perspective of Movement Activists and Organizers.” After graduation Nina plans to prepare for the LSAT and apply to law school. Congratulations to the Legal Studies Departmental Citation recipient for 2021, Nina Perez-Morales.

Student Commencement Speaker Nayzak Wali-Ali is a double major in Legal Studies and Ethnic Studies and was a finalist for the University Medal. She is also a transfer student who has spent a fair amount of time in virtual instead of physical Berkeley. Nayzak will present her own story. But I will say she has been an involved participant both in the Sacramento community, where she was the Chair of the Sacramento Youth Commission and representative of the African-American Student Success Task Force. At Berkeley, Nayzak has been Leadership Development Director for the Black Student Union and Community Development Coordinator for the Black Recruitment and Retention Center. She has also been an intern at a law firm where she focused on inmates’ rights, at Berkeley Law’s Death Penalty Clinic, and at the Bay Area Legal Aid Domestic Violence Restraining Order Clinic. She just completed her Legal Studies Honors Thesis, “The Double Burden: The Histories and Narratives of Black Women Organizers at UC Berkeley.” After graduation, Nayzak plans to continue to pursue her commitment to justice. Congratulations to the Legal Studies Student Commencement Speaker for 2021, Nayzak Wali-Ali.

After three of the most challenging and emotionally taxing semesters in the history of UC Berkeley, I congratulate all of you on successfully completing your program of study. The UC Berkeley Legal Studies Class of 2021 has had to overcome more barriers to learning than any other class in the Program’s history, so I authorize you, wherever you may be, to give yourself a pat on the back. Finally, graduates, I invite you to rise, don your mortarboards, switch your tassels from right to left, and show yourselves to be Bachelors of Arts in Legal Studies from UC Berkeley. It has been an honor to work with you and learn with you. Congratulations!

Remarks from your Student Commencement Speaker Nayzak Wali-Ali

Congratulations to the graduating seniors of the Legal Studies Department of the Class of 2021! It is my honor to be this year’s Departmental Commencement Speaker. While I wish I could have spoken to you all in person, I hope my written speech can appropriately express my gratitude to you all and excitement for this next chapter in our lives.

I want to thank Lauri La Point for her tireless work as our advisor and the incredible faculty members of this department. Your flexibility, support, and guidance have been vital to our success during this time.

We have endured more than most classes before us, but I am proud to have experienced it with you all. Not only have we completed our senior year virtually, but grappled with an increasingly threatening global pandemic, continued racial injustice, a severe climate crisis, and seemingly unending tribulations that tested our resilience, strength, and patience. As difficult as it has been, it has prepared us for the urgency of these intersectional issues.

To be a UC Berkeley Legal Studies graduate is a responsibility. We have the knowledge, tools, and access to lead movements to collaborate on solutions and do real work to change this country and the world. This is a daunting task for a recent graduate. We are faced with so many decisions that can determine our life’s trajectory, but in all of that fear, we must be staunch in our commitment to justice. I do not use the word justice lightly, and I hope it has not lost its meaning in the endless Marvel movies. I see justice as retribution. Justice is protecting our communities and creating precedents for accountability. Justice is not reserved for the superheroes but often fulfilled by the everyday individual who cares for their communities and fights to improve the lives of those around them. As we graduate, we will be tasked with a responsibility to carry this mission throughout our lives.

During this time, I am reminded of one of my favorite books, Ways of Dying by Zakes Mda. He writes about a professional mourner who grapples with the endless death in his city. The desensitization to death is a primary theme in his novel, saying, “our ways of living have become our ways of dying.” We are exposed to violence and death on a daily basis, to the point that these violent ways of dying have become our ways of living. I know that we cannot be content with living our lives like this, and it falls upon us to be intolerant to this reality and address it in our work.

By no means will this be easy, but nothing worth fighting for was ever easy. This country’s oppressive systems have a long and withstanding history. However, we are a class of scholars, advocates, future lawyers, and leaders who have the unique opportunity to do something meaningful with our education. In whatever you choose to do, do something you are proud of and do it with each other. We are now a part of a vast and robust network of UC Berkeley alumni with the skills to work together to address our nation’s most pressing issues.

I speak so fiercely about our duty to change systems because it is a question of survival for myself and so many others. I come to you all as a daughter of a refugee. While my circumstances are a product of war, I refuse to be a product of violence. In a haze of bomb smoke, my father fled Iraq as Saddam Hussein was hunting and killing Kurdish people. While he was lucky enough to escape, my uncle was not. Captured and imprisoned in one of Hussein’s detention centers, he was murdered by a shooting squad. Along with hundreds of thousands of Kurds, my family was deported and separated from their homeland.

I also come to you as a result of resilient Black women who fought for their right to live autonomously. My mother took after her mother and her mother before her, striving for better living conditions in Morocco. She fought for her right to get an education and immigrated to the U.S. to receive one.

Like so many of you, I do not enter a space alone. I am carried by my ancestors who paved a path for me. They were never afforded the opportunities I was, and with these gifts, I work to honor their legacy. I hope we can promise to uphold the histories of our families and ensure the future of our communities.

You are capable of more than you may realize. Acknowledge what you have had to endure to get to where you are. You cannot care for others until you care for yourself, so not only for you but the people that depend on you, be kind to yourself. Our journeys may be stressful, arduous, and taxing, but we must honor our body, mind, and spirit for carrying us this far. Do not allow self-doubt to obstruct your sense of worth.

If no one has told you this (or not enough), I am proud of you, and I believe in you. It is such a pleasure to be a part of such an accomplished and well-rounded class, and I look forward to working together to make this world better than we inherited it.

Here’s to you all, to our families and friends, and to our bright futures.
Congratulations, Class of 2021! Best of luck in everything you do.

Nayzak Wali-Ali (she/her)
Class of 2021

Remarks from your Associate Dean, Professor of Law and Professor of Political Science Taeku Lee:

Congratulations Legal Studies Class of 2021!!

You are about to join one of the most powerful and privileged communities anywhere in the world. That is the community of the learned and critically engaged with a degree from the greatest public university in the world and, of course, the greatest university public or private in the Bay Area.

You are the Legal Studies Class of 2021 from the University of California, Berkeley. This is nosmall feat. You have all travelled long and far, often at great cost both literal and figurative, to get to this moment. Many of you are immigrants born or children of immigrants. Many of you are the first in your family to receive a college degree. Many of you worked one or multiple jobs to cover the enormous cost of a college education today. Many of you worked a second shift at home to be a caretaker to your children, siblings, parents, grandparents.

And for over a year now and counting, all of you have had to manage the unexpected and
unimagined stresses and struggles of an unprecedented global pandemic. It would have been easy for you to feel buried and vanquished by these circumstances. Yet you all persisted. We salute and celebrate your persistence!

We also honor your choice to major in Legal Studies. The intricacies of legal realism and legal formalism are not everyone’s cup of tea, nor are the finer points of other topics like legal consciousness, legal mobilization, adversarial legalism, critical race theory, and so on. While this world of ideas that is so dear to your professors and graduate student instructors may not long survive your time as a Legal Studies major, our sincerest hope is that what will long survive your days here are the lasting hallmarks of a great Berkeley education.

A constant curiosity about the world. A recognition that inquiry ought to precede assumption and judgment. An ability, when inquiring, to do so fearlessly, critically, and to the uncompromisingly highest standards. A commitment to act on the courage of your convictions.

Because it is Berkeley, we further hope you will embrace as a hallmark a lifelong commitment to serve those in need, to make change for the better, and to fight injustice anywhere it lurks. You are graduating in the midst of unquestionably dire times. But remember these eloquent words from Michelle Obama: “You should never view your challenges as a disadvantage. Instead, it’s important for you to understand that your experience facing and overcoming adversity is actually one of your biggest advantages.”

You also have, as Legal Studies majors much more than the advantages of facing and
overcoming adversity. To paraphrase from the movies, each of you is graduating with a very particular set of skills. Skills that will make you a nightmare for the wicked forces of apathy, ignorance, injustice, corruption, and cruelty.

In addition, to end where I started, you are joining one of the most powerful and privileged
communities anywhere in the world, the League of Legal Studies Alums. With that power, find ways to empower others. With that privilege, seek opportunities to entitle others in the ways that you are now entitled.

Your time at Berkeley has been marked by the Trump Administration, COVID-19, the #MeToo movement, the #BLM movement, the alarming, existential reverberations of climate change… moments and crises that make it patently clear that you cannot rely on the so-called “grown ups” to handle business, to secure the future, to leave things better than they found it. Own your membership in the League of Legal Studies Alums and you can collectively be an unstoppable force. This is your moment, your world to heal, remake and reshape. Take the torch, run with it, and leave us awestruck.

Stay hungry, be fearless, serve your communities, dream of a future, and live long and prosper, Legal Studies Class of 2021!

Legal Studies Honors Graduates!

Congratulations to our Legal Studies Honors Graduates who participated in our rigorous two semester honors program culminating in a substantial honors thesis and presentation (on Zoom) at the 2021 Undergraduate Legal Studies Research Conference!

Rotem Litinski  -  Deconstructing Rhetorical Constructions of Race: Corporate Management and the Organizational Logic of Appropriateness

Clara Bishop  -  In Too Deep: How Deepfakes Challenge Our News, Our Elections, and Our Constitution

Nicholas Ku  -  Big Tech’s Rhetoric Against Congressional Anticompetitive Accusations

Abraham Sanchez  -Who Can Police the Police? (Can insurers be effective regulators of the police regarding police use-of-force misconduct)

Ali Alderman  -  Physician-Assisted Suicide: Perspectives of California Medical Professionals

Maria Miller Hutton  -  Bodily Integrity and Informed Consent in Obstetrics and Gynecology: How do patients conceptualize treatment of their rights during routine care?

Fannie Osran  -  California Sexually Violent Predator Law in Action: Socio-Legal Factors Impacting the SVP Release Process

Evelyn Chuang Lawrence  -Being Mixed: How People of Two or More Races Experience and Deal With Discrimination

Angela Jimenez Pinto  -  Sanctuary Consciousness: A Comparative Study on The Perspectives of Undocumented and Dacamented Latinx Living in California

Lesly Avendaño  -  A Case Study on Oaxaqueñx Identities: A Study on its Political and Legal Importance

Nina Perez-Morales  -  Transforming Society and Centering Community: Abolition of the Prison Industrial Complex from the Perspective of Movement Activists and Organizers

Paris Gockley  -  Understanding the Public’s Perception of Forensic Evidence

Nayzak Wali-Ali  -  The Double Burden: The Histories and Narratives of Black Women Organizers at UC Berkeley

Juweria Mehtar  -  Beyond ‘An Asian Who Loves Math’: The Political Consciousness of College- Age South Asian Americans

Tiffany Okeani  -  The Intricacies of the Black Student Experience: A Discussion about the Influence of Ethnicity on Viewpoints of Affirmative Action and Belonging


Congratulations to our Top Five Graduates!

Clara Bishop
Rotem Litinski
Mireya Napoles
Nina Perez-Morales  – Departmental Citation 
Nayzak Wali-Ali  
– Commencement Speaker

Congratulations to our Outstanding Graduate Student Instructors!

Eduardo Bautista Duran
Bonnie Cherry
Kyle Deland
Kyneshawau Hurd

2021 Commencement Scroll (These are normally handed out at Commencement to each graduate)

Land Acknowledgement Statement

The Legal Studies Program recognizes that Berkeley sits on the territory of Xučyun, the ancestral and unceded land of the Chochenyo Ohlone, the successors of the historic and sovereign Verona Band of Alameda County. This land was and continues to be of great importance to the Ohlone people. We recognize that every member of the Berkeley community has, and continues to benefit from the use and occupation of this land, since the institution’s founding in 1868. Consistent with our values of community and diversity, we have a responsibility to acknowledge and make visible the university’s relationship to Native peoples. By offering this Land Acknowledgement, we affirm Indigenous sovereignty and will work to hold University of California, Berkeley, more accountable to the needs of American Indian and Indigenous peoples.

An alternate spelling of  Xučyun is Huchiun.

What is a Land Acknowldgement?

A Land Acknowledgement is a formal statement that recognizes and respects Indigenous Peoples as traditional stewards of this land and the enduring relationship that exists between Indigenous Peoples and their traditional territories.

For more information, we recommend Beyond Territorial Acknowledgements by Chelsea Vowel.