Three retiring law faculty members – Robert Belton, Jon Bruce and Jim Ely – were recognized during Vanderbilt’s May 8 commencement ceremony, at which they were given the title of emeritus faculty. "It is both a happy and a sad duty to honor the service of these highly regarded members of our faculty," Dean Edward L. Rubin said. "Bob, Jon and Jim have taught and mentored an entire generation of Vanderbilt law graduates, and we will miss them as colleagues."
Robert Belton joined the Vanderbilt Law faculty in 1975 as director and instructor in the Fair Employment Clinical Law Program. He became an associate professor in 1977 and professor in 1982. An employment law expert, Belton is co-author of a leading casebook on employment discrimination law, and his treatise Remedies in Employment Discrimination Law was published in 1992. His articles on employment discrimination have appeared in numerous legal journals. He is the recipient of the Clyde C. Ferguson Award from the Minority Section of the American Association of Law Schools, the Napier-Looby Lifetime Achievement Award and the National Bar Association Presidential Award for Scholarship and Teaching. A member of the American Law Institute, he has served on the Executive Committee of the AALS, the Executive Board of the National Employment Lawyers Association and the steering committee of the Gender and Racial Fairness Task Force for the 6th Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals. Belton earned his B.A. from the University of Connecticut and his J.D. from Boston University School of Law. He was assistant counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund in New York for five years serving as counsel for plaintiffs in several landmark civil rights cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, including the seminal Griggs v. Duke Power Co.
Jon Bruce joined the Vanderbilt Law School faculty as a visiting professor and became a full professor in 1981. Before Vanderbilt, Bruce spent three years in the Navy Judge Advocate General Corps, two years in private practice, and held positions on the law faculties at Oklahoma City University and Stetson University. Bruce’s published books include Cases and Materials on Modern Property Law (with Jim Ely), The Law of Easements and Licenses in Land (with Jim Ely), Real Estate Finance in a Nutshell and Land Use Anthology. His articles have also appeared in a number of law journals. Bruce was recognized by Vanderbilt law students for his outstanding teaching with the Hall-Hartman Award in 2003, 2004 and 2008 and has also taught in Vanderbilt’s summer program in Venice. Bruce was a Parsons’ Visitor on the University of Sydney Faculty of Law and has twice been a speaker at the National Conference of Law Reviews. He was active in the ABA Section of Real Property, Probate and Trust Law and served as a member of the Multistate Bar Examination Real Property Specifications Review Panel.
James Ely, who held the Milton R. Underwood Chair in Free Enterprise and also held an appointment on Vanderbilt’s history faculty, joined the Vanderbilt Law School faculty in the fall of 1973 and was promoted to professor in 1978. Ely became a nationally recognized scholar in the fields of property and American legal history. Among the 16 books that he authored is The Guardian of Every Other Right: A Constitutional History of Property Rights.Ely was named the Law School’s Milton R. Underwood Chair in Free Enterprise in 1999. He also held the title of Fed Ex Research Professor at the Law School in 2003. He was a five-time recipient of the Hall-Hartman Outstanding Teacher Award. In the broader profession, he served as an editor for the American Journal of Legal History and The Independent Review, and was an officer of both the American Society for Legal History and the Legal History Section of the American Association of Law Schools. Before joining Vanderbilt’s law faculty, Ely served on the history faculty at Virginia Commonwealth University and practiced law in New York. He received a B.A. from Princeton University, an LL.B. from Harvard University, and an M.A. and a Ph.D. in history from the University of Virginia.