The Honorable Ann Aiken, U.S. District Court Judge for the District of Oregon was named the 2020 recipient of Oregon Law’s Meritorious Service Award. The award was created by Oregon Law faculty to honor the service of those who have enhanced legal education and advanced the role of law in society.
As a Double Duck, Judge Aiken received her bachelor of science degree in 1974 and law degree in 1979. Throughout her esteemed legal career, she has supported the law school and used her various platforms to support student success and invest in the professional development and mentorship of Oregon Law graduates.
An avid supporter of student success
For the past four years, Judge Aiken hosts new law students to the Wayne L. Morse United States Courthouse in Eugene for the “Art of the Possible” conference. The event was conceived in part by Judge Aiken and began in an effort to inspire law students and new lawyers to think courageously and creatively about their future careers.
The event also gives students their first introduction to the realities of practicing law from those on the federal bench, law firm partners, and government attorneys focused on both civil and criminal practice.
“Whatever job you want to do in the law is going to be hard,” said Judge Aiken to students at the 2019 event. “Find the people who have your back, who share your values, and are going to support you when the times are down. It could be a big firm, a small firm, or a collaboration where you are sharing office space. Most importantly, work with people that care about you and the work you are going to do.”
To Judge Aiken, these are not just words, but something that she practices. Adell Amos, former extern and Clayton R. Hess Professor of Law notes that Judge Aiken is one of the best advocates a person could ask for. “Once she is in your corner, she is always there for you,” said Amos who graduated in 1998.
For current students like Andrea Moore (JD ’21) of the Women’s Law Forum at Oregon Law, Judge Aiken is not only an advocate, but empowers them to use their voice and to not be afraid of taking a non-traditional career path.
“The forum that Judge Aiken helped conceive brought together a strong showing of Oregon judges, academics, and lawyers who connected with us and showed us that there is more than one way to make a mark on our community,” Moore said.
Judge Aiken is also known to support Oregon Law students by serving as a guest lecturer in classes, speaking at law school conferences, and welcoming students to attend and observe Reentry Court. The latter is an innovative federal initiative, created by Judge Aiken to assist high-risk parolees to adjust and to excel in life on the outside.
Most recently, Judge Aiken joined fellow alumni and shared a message of encouragement to the Class of 2020. With the traditional in-person commencement ceremony cancelled due to COVID-19, Judge Aiken urged the graduates to persevere in the face of obstacles.
“The sky is yours,” Judge Aiken said. “Disruption is everywhere. You have a chance to write the rules from where the law will go in the future.”
Investing in professional development and mentorship
Judge Aiken’s dedication to building the next generation of lawyers is seen in her commitment to hiring students for externships and recent graduates for clerkships. Since 1998, Judge Aiken has had 174 externs that have worked in her chambers. To date, 143 of those students have hailed from the UO. And out of the ten clerkship positions, four have been Oregon Law Alumni.
Alumna Gloria Trainor, who externed for Judge Aiken in 2008, describes her former boss as generous, open, and tenacious. Trainor says that the best advice she received from Judge Aiken was to go for her goals, no matter how lofty, and to self-advocate.
“For some of the externs, these words spurred them to run for office,” said Trainor. “For me, it meant opening my own firm.”
Today, Trainor’s law firm is located in Portland, Oregon. Her practice focuses on personal injury, employment discrimination, and family law, particularly with the LGBTQ+ community.
Ben Hovland, who externed in 2006 with Judge Aiken, serves as the Chairman of the US Election Assistance Commission. He looks back on his externship with Judge Aiken and says that she was an inspiring example of how a leader can motivate others and build a strong team to accomplish great things.
“Judge Aiken was clearly committed to fostering a learning environment for law students, but in a way that made you feel like an important part of the team,” said Hovland. “Whenever I have had the opportunity to oversee or work with externs in my career, Judge Aiken set the standard that I try to emulate. Doing so has taught me how hard it is to do something she made look easy.”
Steve Farset served as Judge Aiken’s law clerk for two years. Currently, he is a career law clerk to United States Magistrate Judge Shashi H. Kewalramani at the US District Court for the Central District of California.
Farset says that his clerkship with Judge Aiken helped him achieve his career goals by exposing him to the joys of clerking and teaching him the skills needed to become a career clerk. He credits her with helping to shape him both professionally and personally.
“Without the opportunity and mentorship Judge Aiken gave me, I’m confident that I would not be where I am today,” said Farset. “Judge Aiken often encouraged me to write for as many judges in the district as possible, which helped me grow immensely as a writer and opened many doors for me professionally. She became more than just a mentor and someone I look up to professionally, she became my good friend.”
Other externs and law clerks have gone on to become legal instructors and professors, entrepreneurs who start their own firms and business, attorneys at the top of their field, and even judges.
They all take the lessons learned from Judge Aiken, and each in their own way continue her legacy of enhancing the legal education and the role of law in society.
By Rayna Jackson, School of Law Communications