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Judge Nancy Edmunds to receive honorary degree and keynote Commencement May 13
Judge Nancy Edmunds has presided over numerous high-profile cases during her more than 20 years on the federal bench. She’ll share her wisdom with the 2013 Wayne Law graduating class when she keynotes Commencement and receives an honorary doctor of laws degree at 5 p.m. Monday, May 13, at the Max M. Fisher Music Center in Detroit.
The judge earned her juris doctor degree summa cum laude from Wayne Law in 1976. She also earned a master’s degree in education from the University of Chicago, and a bachelor’s degree cum laude from Cornell University. She began her law career as a judicial clerk to U.S. Senior District Judge Ralph Freeman, and spent 14 years as a private practice attorney with Detroit-based Dykema Gossett in its commercial litigation section.
President George H. W. Bush appointed Judge Edmunds, a Detroit native, as a federal judge for the Eastern District of Michigan in 1992, and she assumed senior status for the court after serving on that bench for 20 years.
Along the way, the judge has presided over some newsworthy cases, most recently the 2013 federal case against former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. Last year, Judge Edmunds presided over the “Christmas Day Underwear Bomber” trial, and made several crucial decisions to ensure the defendant’s right to a fully fair trial would be protected despite his notoriety.
She made another critical decision in 2002, when she presided over Detroit Free Press v. Ashcroft, a case that arose in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The judge ruled that it was a violation of the First Amendment for the government to designate certain immigration hearings as “special interest cases” and close them to the public. Her decision was affirmed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. That opinion, written by another Wayne Law alumnus, Judge Damon Keith, contained the much-quoted statement, “Democracies die behind closed doors.”
Judge Edmunds has served with distinction on the Law School’s Board of Visitors for many years, including four years as chair of that board, which is an advisory body to the dean. In 2012, she was presented with a Wayne State University Distinguished Alumni Award honoring her outstanding service to the university and her distinguished service in the field of justice.
She is active in a number of professional and civic organizations, and served on the board of trustees of Temple Beth El, on the board of governors for Cranbrook/Kingswood Schools, and as a board of trustees member of the Jewish Community Relations Council.