L-R: Alex Kozinski '75, Dean Jennifer L. Mnookin, Paul Watford '92, and Eugene Volokh '94.
UCLA School of Law has named Paul Watford '92, a judge on the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and Eugene Volokh '94, the school's Gary T. Schwartz Distinguished Professor of Law, as its 2017 Alumni of the Year.
Watford received the Alumnus of the Year Award for Public and Community Service. Volokh was named the Alumnus of the Year Award for Professional Achievement. Both were honored at a May 4 luncheon at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles before a group of fellow alumni, faculty, friends and family.
At the request of the honorees, Ninth Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski '75, for whom both Volokh and Watford served as law clerks, offered introductory remarks.
Watford was an editor on the UCLA Law Review and graduated Order of the Coif before clerking for Kozinski and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. He went on to serve as a federal prosecutor and partner focusing on appellate litigation at Munger, Tolles & Olson. In 2012 President Obama nominated Watford to serve on the Ninth Circuit, and the nomination was confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
In subsequent years, Watford was on Obama's short list for consideration for a vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court.
In her opening remarks, UCLA Law Dean Jennifer L. Mnookin emphasized that Watford was recognized as much for his high standards of conduct and service to others as for his professional accomplishments.
Watford has been a champion of the school's Law Fellows Program, which has helped more than 1,600 undergraduate students from underrepresented backgrounds to prepare for success in law school and the legal profession. Watford has helped secure financial support for the program and has served on a Law Fellows mentorship panel. He has also served as a board member for Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County, which provides free legal aid to more than 100,000 area residents and families each year.
In accepting the award, Watford offered heartfelt gratitude to his wife, Sherry, and to Kozinski, whom he described as a great mentor and role model.
Watford also credited UCLA Law for providing the access and opportunities he needed to succeed. "I know for a fact that if UCLA had not admitted me, I would not be on the Ninth Circuit today," he said.
Volokh, who joined the law school faculty in 1994, is one of the leading constitutional scholars in the country. His research has made him among the most cited law school faculty by state and federal courts. His blog hosted by The Washington Post, The Volokh Conspiracy, is popular and well-regarded forum for analysis of constitutional issues and other contemporary controversies.
Volokh is the leader of UCLA Law's Scot and Cyan Banister First Amendment Clinic, in which he and his students prepare friend-of-the-court briefs on behalf of nonprofit organizations and academics in appellate courts around the country.
"It was a great honor to receive this award, especially alongside Judge Watford, whom I have long known and much admired," Volokh said after the ceremony. "I was especially delighted to have the award be presented by Judge Kozinski, for whom both Judge Watford and I clerked, and who has taught us both so much. UCLA Law has been home for more than 25 years, and I'm very grateful for all it has done for me."