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Lifetime Achievement in Advocacy Award

The Lifetime Achievement in Advocacy Award honors an individual each year who contributed significantly to the UHLC Blakely Advocacy Institute’s mission of teaching the art of advocacy to law students. Each honoree has dedicated their legal career to education, advocacy and enhancing the local, national and international legal communities.

Hon. Belinda Hill

2023 Recipient: Ann Ryan Robertson

Ann Ryan Robertson is a triple University of Houston graduate: she received her B.A. in English in 1972, her J.D. in 1977, and her LL.M. in International Economic Law in 2005.  Ann coached the award-winning UHLC advocacy teams for the Vis International Commercial Arbitration Competition from 2004-2020.  During her coaching tenure, Ann’s teams won over 48 team and individual awards.  Ann currently teaches Advocacy in International Arbitration for the UHLC Blakely Advocacy Institute and conducts the Commercial Arbitration Training for the A.A. White Dispute Resolution Center.  Ann is an international partner at Locke Lord, LLP.  Named to Global Arbitration Review’s “Who’s Who Legal: Arbitration” — a guide to the world’s leading commercial arbitrators, Ann serves as both arbitrator and counsel in international and domestic arbitrations in a variety of complex business disputes across a number of industries and all around the world.  As counsel, she appears as an advocate, designs dispute resolution mechanisms, enforces arbitral awards, and advises and negotiates settlements for clients.

Hon. Belinda Hill

2022 Recipient: Hon. Belinda Hill

Judge Belinda Hill received a B.A. in communication and rhetoric from the University of Virginia and then earned her J. D. degree from the Thurgood Marshall School of Law. She was appointed judge of the 230th District Court in Harris County in 1997 by Governor George Bush. She served on the bench until 2012 when she stepped down to become a district attorney for Harris County. Judge Hill is highly respected by both the Defense Bar and the Prosecution. Of note, she was the judge in the Andrea Yates case in 2002. Judge Hill has been part of the teaching faculty for the Blakely’s Trial Advocacy course for over 28 years.

K. Byron McCoy

2021 Recipient: K. Byron McCoy

K. Byron McCoy received his J.D. from the University of North Carolina before moving to Houston in 1978. Passionate about trial advocacy, Professor McCoy had a clear vision of what it would take to establish a first-rate law school trial advocacy program. He was the creator and director of the Trial Advocacy Institute at UHLC (now known as the Blakely Advocacy Institute). Professor McCoy created the Institute in 1985 and headed the program until his death in 1997. Based on his efforts, the Institute is now a nationally recognized advocacy program. Much beloved by his students, Professor McCoy trained class after class of talented student advocates. He was also a true renaissance man: teacher, author, musician, singer, photographer, and painter.

Karen B. Lukin

2020 Recipient: Karen B. Lukin

Karen B. Lukin is a double University of Houston alum, graduating with a B.A. in 1973 and a J.D. in 1981. She was Board certified in 1990 in Civil Trial Law and Personal Injury Trial Law. Ms. Lukin is a highly respected adjunct professor at UHLC who has taught Trial Advocacy for more than 25 years and Evidence for 2 years. She has also taught in Emory Law School’s Kessler-Eidson Trial Techniques Program for 25 years. Ms. Lukin worked for Marathon Oil Company in litigation for several years. During that time, she was also their Pro Bono Coordinator. She is now retired and heavily involved in pro bono efforts in Texas. Among her many pro bono efforts, Ms. Lukin: serves on the Board of Lone Star Legal Aid and chaired its Pro Bono Committee; works with the Houston Bar Association to educate primary school students about the U.S. Constitution and other legal topics and chaired its ADR Section; served on the Legal Services to the Poor in Civil Cases Committee of the Texas State Bar; served on the Board of Houston Volunteer Lawyers Program (HVLP); works with various HVLP pro bono clinics; and handles several pro bono cases a year from HVLP and/or Catholic Charities. Ms. Lukin has also authored articles and given presentations on pro bono and volunteer opportunities. In 2010, Mr. Lukin received the Texas Access to Justice Corporate Council Pro Bono Award. She is also a tireless volunteer who judges multiple UHLC advocacy competitions each year.

2019 Winner: A. Ross Rommel, Jr.

2019 Recipient: A. Ross Rommel, Jr.

A. Ross Rommel, Jr. was a partner at Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP (HAK) until he retired in 2017. Since 1997, he has served as the firm’s General Counsel, and he previously served as the head of the firm’s Litigation Section. Mr. Rommel’s practice included civil and criminal jury trials involving oil and gas, real estate, securities and corporate disputes. He also served as President of the A.A. White Dispute Resolution Institute at the University of Houston Law Center. Mr. Rommel graduated with a B.A. from the University of Virginia in 1969 and with a J.D. from the University of Houston Law Center 1973. He served in the United States Marine Corps as a Platoon Sergeant 1st Bn 23rd Marines USMC Reserves from 1970 – 1975. Mr. Rommel was also a prosecutor with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office for seven years before joining HAK.

Thomas C. Newhouse

2018 Recipient: Thomas C. Newhouse

Thomas C. Newhouse, Professor of Law, Emeritus, taught at the University of Houston Law Center starting in 1966. He acted as Associate Dean from 1975-1978 and again from 1985-1988. Mr. Newhouse received his B.A. from the University of Notre Dame in 1957; his J.D. from the University of Tulsa in 1962; and his LL.M. from New York University in 1966. While at UHLC, he specialized in mediation, alternative dispute resolution, negotiations, and clinical practice. Mr. Newhouse was the Director of the A. A. White Dispute Resolution Center from 1992-1997, and he was the course director for the “40 Hour Basic Mediation Training” class for many years. He retired from full-time teaching in 2002 but kept on with the basic mediation training for an additional 12 years.

Don R. Riddle

2017 Recipient: Don R. Riddle

While at the University of Houston Law Center, Don R. Riddle was Associate Editor of the Law Review, a charter member of the Advocates student organization, and recipient of several special awards. He graduated with honors in 1966. Before entering law school, Mr. Riddle served in the U.S. Marine Corps. Upon graduating from UHLC, he began practicing law with Brown, Kronzer, Abraham, Watkins, and Steeley in Houston, where he became a partner of the firm in 1969. In 1974, he founded the firm of Riddle, Murphrey, O’Quinn, and Cannon. Mr. Riddle is now in his 45th year as a Houston trial lawyer and has tried approximately 200 jury cases in federal and state courts throughout the country, some of which are among the highest-profile cases in history. Since 1995 Mr. Riddle has continued in private practice with his son, Todd Riddle (JD UH ’94).

Hon. Ruby Kless Sondock

2016 Recipient: Hon. Ruby Kless Sondock

Justice Ruby Kless Sondock, UHLC ’62, is a trailblazer for women lawyers in Texas. As one of only five women in her law class, Justice Sondock graduated as valedictorian in 1962. She had been admitted to the Bar a year earlier (without taking a single Bar review class). Following graduation, Justice Sondock entered private practice and argued a case before the Texas Supreme Court just a year into her legal career. She was appointed to the bench of the Harris County Domestic Relations Court in 1973. Four years later, she was appointed to the 234th Civil District Court, earning her the distinction of being the first woman district court judge in Harris County, Texas. In 1982, Justice Sondock was appointed to the Texas Supreme Court to serve the unexpired term of a deceased justice. She was the Court’s first female justice, with the exception of a special all-woman court convened in 1925 to hear a single case. Justice Sondock declined to seek election to a full term and instead ran successfully for reelection to her District Court seat the following year. Since retiring from the bench, Justice Sondock has worked for many years as a successful private mediator in Houston. UHLC, now hosts a biennial lecture series in her honor, “The Ruby Kless Sondock Lecture in Legal Ethics.”

Jim M. Perdue, Sr.

2015 Recipient: Jim M. Perdue, Sr.

Jim M. Perdue, Sr., UHLC ’63, was the inaugural recipient of the UHLC Blakely Advocacy Institute’s Lifetime Achievement in Advocacy award. Mr. Perdue is currently of counsel with Perdue & Kidd in Houston, Texas. He is a double alumnus of the University of Houston: he received his B.S. in Science, cum laude, and his Juris Doctorate, cum laude. Since his graduation from UHLC, Mr. Perdue has achieved more than five decades of unprecedented legal success in securing substantial verdicts and recoveries for his clients. He is a renowned author and lecturer on the topics of medical malpractice, product liability, professional responsibility, rules of evidence, the psychology of jury persuasion, and trial strategies and techniques. Mr. Perdue is also a highly respected adjunct professor at UHLC who taught a popular Storytelling class at the school for more than a decade. In, 2022, Mr. Perdue was inducted into the Trial Lawyers Hall of Fame, an organization honoring legendary trial lawyers. At present there are 77 inductees, including such legendary lawyers as John Adams, Clarence Darrow, Melvin Belli and Thurgood Marshall.