More than 500 alumni and their families joined us for Law Alumni Weekend, celebrating the Suffolk University community and honoring distinguished alumni. Catch a glimpse of some of the fun by checking out our Facebook photo gallery.
Top Alumni Honors
Suffolk Law honored four extraordinary alumni for their achievements and service to the Law School:
- Honorable Paul A. Suttell JD ’76, Chief Justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court, Alumni Achievement Award
- Karen M. Blum JD ’74, Professor of Law, Suffolk Law, Alumni Service Award
- Jonathan P. Trotta JD ’07, Energy Attorney at Stinson Leonard Street LLP, Gold Alumni Award for Graduates of the Last Decade
- Howard M. Kahalas JD ’72, The Law Office of Howard M. Kahalas, P.C., Summa Award
We created a video (below) to celebrate our four honorees; the stories they tell are as varied as they are powerful.
Keynote Speaker: New York Times Best-selling Author
It was the era of Vietnam and Watergate, a time ripe with suspicion about illegal wiretapping and surveillance. As Suffolk Law student James Bamford, BA’72, JD’75 focused on getting through a course on property law, the stage was being set for his career in chronicling and exposing the National Security Agency (NSA), the U.S. intelligence agency responsible for global monitoring.
Bamford--author, journalist, professor, and documentary filmmaker--shared his story with the Suffolk Law community gathered at the Moakley Courthouse.
Listening in on Americans
Bamford partially credits his success in pursuing a career focused on national security law to his failure to thrive in his Property Law class. (It took two tries to get a passing grade, he said.)
Having just returned from three intense days interviewing “the world’s most wanted man,” Edward Snowden, Bamford spoke about some of the events that charted his course. While at Suffolk, Bamford, a member of the Naval Reserve, was sent to Puerto Rico for two weeks of active duty. There, he was stationed at Sabana Seca, one of the NSA’s key listening posts.
A colleague at Sabana Seca, one of thousands of Intercept Officers charged with listening in on phone calls from Cuba, the Caribbean, South and Central America, asked if Bamford wanted to listen in on a conversation. He initially declined because he didn’t speak Spanish. His colleague reassured him and said he would understand. “I heard voices speaking English,” he said. “The NSA was actually eavesdropping on Americans.”
When he returned to Suffolk, he had heard about a congressional committee exploring the regulation and oversight of electronic surveillance without warrants. At this time he was also working as a student prosecutor, researching the law about illegal wiretapping. He knew that judges had to approve wiretapping orders. Bamford decided to contact someone on the committee, which was led by Senator Frank Church. “I said, ‘you might be interested in this. They are eavesdropping on Americans in Puerto Rico.’”
Twenty-four hours later, he was in Washington, DC testifying in a secret session of congress. The outcome: the Church Committee thought that the operation in Puerto Rico was shut down. The NSA had lied, Bamford explained. This led to a firestorm of activity within the federal government and for Bamford, an opportunity to delve into the secret world of surveillance activities. He has challenged the NSA throughout his career, and the agency has, in turn, threatened and pursued litigation. Ultimately the winner, the courts allowed him to expose the NSA’s inner workings in three New York Times Bestsellers and in countless investigative news reports.
Bamford’s most recent coup was a recent face-to-face interview with Edward Snowden, who is the focus of Bamford's most recent article for Wired. He told the audience that it took nine-months to connect with Snowden. When he finally secured the interview, he was instructed to fly to Moscow, with no idea of when or where Snowden would meet him. “Eventually I got a message alerting me that I should go to a certain hotel, sit in the lobby, and pretend to read a book,” he said. Bamford found the hotel, and with book in hand waited for his subject. Eventually he saw Snowden walk past him. “I told him that I was surprised that he didn’t see me, especially after all of his experience in the CIA.” This was the longest time Snowden has spent with any journalist. Bamford’s article appears in the September 2014 issue of Wired.
Dean Camille A. Nelson, who is stepping down this summer at the end of her 5-year term, received a standing ovation celebrating her efforts on behalf of the law school. She shared a few of the school’s meaningful accomplishments, including the launch of the nationally acclaimed law technology concentration (a Top 10 program); four ranked programs in the US News Top 20; large increases in the diversity of Suffolk Law’s faculty, students and staff; implementation of a pipeline program for undergraduates from underrepresented communities; the launch of the Women’s Leadership Academy, and new international partnerships in Jamaica, Cuba, and Puerto Rico.
“The culture at Suffolk is remarkable in every way,” she told the audience. “I’m thrilled that you have invested in our mission in support of our amazing students, especially during this challenging time in the legal profession.”
In his remarks, Norman Smith, President of Suffolk University said, “In US News & World Report, Suffolk Law School was named among the nation’s Top 20 best law schools in the areas of clinical programs, intellectual property, dispute resolution and legal writing.”
“Suffolk University is already one of the Princeton Review’s best colleges and business schools in America,” he added. “It is time for Suffolk to be on the national and international map. Stay with us, because in a few years, the world will know how great we are.”
Chairman of the Board of Trustees Andrew C. Meyer, Jr. introduced President Smith, remarking on the new president’s track record of successful leadership, including his service at Wagner College, Harvard’s Graduate School of Education and the John F. Kennedy School of Government. Wagner, one of the top 25 colleges in the Northeast, reached that height as a result of Smith’s efforts, Meyer said.