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2012 Georgetown Law Commencement Ceremony

Sunday, May 20, 2012 2:00 p.m. ET

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The speaker at the 2012 Georgetown Law Commencement Ceremony was Gay J. McDougall. She accepted a Doctor of Law, honoris causa for her late husband, John A. Payton.

Payton, who died this past March, served as president and director-counsel of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s Legal Defense and Educational Fund. While attending Harvard Law School, he served on its Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Law Review and assisted with high-profile civil rights cases. These cases included the defense of a 1960s NAACP-led boycott of segregationist merchants in Mississippi.

After graduating from law school, Payton served as a law clerk to Judge Cecil F. Poole of the U.S. District Court in San Francisco before joining the Washington, D.C., firm Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering (now WilmerHale). He chose the firm in order to continue working on NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware, the Mississippi boycott case that Wilmer lawyers argued successfully before the Supreme Court. He went on to lead the firm’s litigation department, simultaneously handling commercial matters and some of the most important civil rights cases of our time.

McDougall, formerly a United Nations Independent Expert on minorities, is serving as the Robert Drinan Visiting Professor in Human Rights at the Law Center this academic year.

McDougall was executive director of the international NGO Global Rights from 1994 through 2006. She has also served as an Independent Expert on the U.N. entity that oversees compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. During her time in that position, she negotiated the adoption of General Recommendation XXV on the Gender Dimensions of Racial Discrimination.


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