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Distinguished Lectures

Each year, important scholars and renowned practitioners deliver distinguished lectures at Vanderbilt Law School sponsored by one of several endowed lecture series. These series include:

The Charles N. Burch Lecture Series

This lecture series recognizes the contributions of Charles N. Burch, a graduate of Vanderbilt Law School in 1889 and a Founder's Day medalist in oratory, to Vanderbilt Law School. Burch was devoted to the interests of the school throughout his career. A founding partner of a prominent Memphis law firm, he served as a lecturer in law and a member of the University's Board of Trust for 30 years. Burch had a distinguished career in the general practice of law and as a general solicitor of the Illinois Central Railroad Company. He was special master for the U.S. Supreme Court in New Jersey v. New York, 283 U.S. 336. His history of the Supreme Court of Tennessee can be found in 172 Tennessee 880. Past lecturers include Harold Hongju Koh, Legal Advisor of the U.S. Department of State and Ian Smillie, chairman of the board of directors for Diamond Development Initiative.

The Jonathan I. Charney Lecture in International Law

The Jonathan I. Charney Distinguished Lecture in International Law honors Professor Charney, one of the world's preeminent experts on international law, who held the Lee S. & Charles A. Speir Chair at Vanderbilt Law School until his death in 2002. The series funds academic lectures and other presentations on international law by distinguished figures in the field. Past lecturers have included Sir Michael Wood, a senior fellow at the University of Cambridge’s Lauterpacht Centre for International Law, Fatou B. Bensouda, Chief Prosecutor, International Criminal Court, and David Caron, President, American Society of International Law.

The Victor S. Johnson Lecture

Each year, the Victor S. Johnson Lecture features a distinguished speaker who addresses a certain aspect of the law and its relation to public policy. The lecture is endowed by Victor S. (Torry) Johnson III '74 in honor of his grandfather. Past lecturers have included Zach Fardon '92 (BA'88) , U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, Richard Susskind , and Michael Olivas, William B. Bates Distinguished Chair of Law at University of Houston Law Center.

The Martin Luther King Jr. Lecture

This annual lecture, scheduled during the week of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, addresses civil rights issues and history. Past lecturers have included Professor Eleanor Brown, a Jamaican national, of George Washington University, Professor Paul D. Butler of Georgetown Law Center who researches and teaches in the areas of criminal law, race relations law, and critical theory, Dylan Penningroth, a professor of history at Northwestern University who specializes in African American and socio-legal history, Kenneth W. Mack, the inaugural Lawrence D. Biele Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, D'Army Bailey, retired circuit court judge and one of the founders of the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Judge Roger Gregory of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, and Georgetown University Law Professor Paul Butler, who researches and teaches in the areas of criminal law, race relations, and critical theory.

The Florrie Wilkes Sanders Lecture

The Florrie Wilkes Sanders Lectureship was established by the family of Sylvia Sanders Kelley (BA'54) to honor her great-grandfather, Judge John Summerfield Wilkes, and her grandmother, Florrie Wilkes Sanders, who graduated from Vanderbilt University in 1925. Past lecturers have included Justice Cornelia (Connie) Clark '79 (BA'71) of the Tennessee Supreme Court, Katherine M. Franke, Isidor and Seville Sulzbacher Professor of Law at Columbia University, Vicki Schultz, Ford Foundation Professor of Law and Social Sciences at Yale Law School, and Deborah L. Rhode, Ernest W. McFarland Professor of Law at Stanford Law School.

The Cecil Sims Lecture Series

This lecture series was established in 1972 to "bring to Vanderbilt Law School distinguished men and women with extensive legal experience to associate informally with faculty and students." The lecture series honors Cecil Sims, a 1914 first-honor graduate of Vanderbilt Law School and a founding member of the Nashville-based firm of Bass Berry & Sims. The Sims lectures vary in format by lecture or more intimate conversations. More recent lecturers have included prominent jurists including U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. , and past Sims Lectures have been delivered by U.S. Attorney Generals Elliott L. Richardson, Griffin Bell, William French Smith, Edwin Meese III, and Janet Reno; and Supreme Court Justices William H. Rehnquist, Anthony M. Kennedy, Antonin Scalia, Sandra Day O'Connor and Stephen Breyer.

Fenwick & West Lecture in Intellectual Property

This annual lecture series was endowed by Fenwick & West founding partner Bill Fenwick '67 to support the Vanderbilt Intellectual Property Program. Past lecturers have included scholars, jurists and practitioners of intellectual property law including Judge Kathleen M. O’Malley of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, Professor Suzy Frankel, Victoria University of Wellington (New Zealand), and Professor Peter Jaszi, director of the Glushko-Samuelson Intellectual Property Clinic at American University College of Law.