April 7, 2017 — Chief Judge Roger Gregory of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals urged students to be compassionate throughout their legal careers during a presentation Monday as "Jurist-in-Residence at the University of Houston Law Center.
Gregory was the fourth and final speaker of the 2017 Judge Ruby Kless Sondock Lectureship in Legal Ethics Jurist-In-Residence Program.
"Coming to an understanding of the dynamics and nuances of the human experience has made all the difference in my career," Gregory said. "You can go to medical school and learn a whole lot about medicine, but you don't know anything about healing. You can go into the seminary and be a great theologian but know nothing about faith. You can go to a great law school like the University of Houston Law Center and know nothing about justice."
Gregory recounted personal experiences and described what he believes are the virtues of the legal profession.
"The best evidence of a life in the law is growth," he said. "Logic alone cannot animate the law. Experience gives it life. Growth is change, and when it changes it should improve in quality and character so that it is responsible and fulfill its objective of justice.
"I want students to be courageous, study hard, and absorb everything your professors have because the time will come that you will have to stand in the well. Someone will call upon you and you must be their voice and must never retreat from justice no matter how faint or distant it is."
Gregory is a native of Petersburg, Va., and received a B.A., summa cum laude, from Virginia State University in 1975 and a J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School in 1978. He is the first African-American to sit on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit based in Richmond, Va. President Bill Clinton recess appointed him to the court on Dec. 27, 2000. President George W. Bush also nominated him, and the Senate confirmed his lifetime appointment in July 2001, making Gregory the only person in the history of the U.S. to be appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals by two presidents of different political parties.
The Jurist-In-Residence program is named in honor of Sondock, a trailblazer in the law who graduated as valedictorian and one of only five women in the UH law school class of 1962. After practicing law for many years, Sondock was appointed to the 234th District Court in 1977, making her the first female state district judge in Harris County. She was appointed to the Texas Supreme Court in 1982, making her the first woman to serve in a regular session of the court. She was proclaimed a "Texas Legal Legend" by the litigation section of the State Bar of Texas in 2016.