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Representation at Willamette Law key to judge’s achievement

by Sarah Bello,

college of law building

As a student at Willamette Law, Judge Élan Consuella Lambert (JD'98) used to imagine the life of Horace Wheatley (JD'64). One of only three Black students in her class, she had found Wheatley's photo in the class composites pictured down the hall. 

Judge Elan Consuella Lambert JD'98

Judge Élan Consuella Lambert JD'98

From what she could tell, he was one of the first Black students who attended Willamette Law. Seeing his picture and thinking about how wonderful his life must have been post-graduation gave her hope to continue on when school was stressful. 

"When I finally became a lawyer, I met Horace — the man in the picture from the wall," Lambert says. " He lived in the Bay Area near me. His life is spectacularly amazing, better than anything I could have imagined. He's welcoming, embracing, successful — what a lawyer or law student aspires to be." 

His representation in the hallway photos mattered, she says. When she was four, she told her mother that she would be a judge. The journey required hard work, but even as the first in her family to attend law school, she never wavered in her goal. 

She hadn't heard of Willamette Law when a professor's friend recommended she visit. She found the "college town" atmosphere similar to Berkeley, where she attended undergrad, and loved how academically engaging the school was. 

"What I learned through my research was that everything you need foundationally to be a lawyer happened in the three years of law school," she says. "A law career of 60 years will be based on those three years. I needed to go to the place that would give me my best shot." 

She focused on gaining a well-rounded education, learning analysis in almost every subject matter — something critical to her work now as an administrative law judge in Oakland. Twelve years after earning her law degree, on September 7, 2010, she was sworn in as a judge. 

She has worked to creative innovative programs like offering homework as community service in lieu of monetary fines in San Francisco's Juvenile Traffic Court. Now a trial judge for tax hearings, she sees her primary duty as the guardian of due process and a fair hearing. 

"When I had my judicial swearing-in ceremony, my uncle spoke about how a four-year-old had the audacity to hope," she says. "It was a great moment for me."

About Willamette University College of Law

Willamette University College of Law was the first law school to open in the Pacific Northwest. Building on deep historic roots, we focus with pride on educating the next generation of problem-solving lawyers and leaders. Our location in Salem, Oregon, directly across the street from the Oregon State Capitol and Supreme Court, cannot be matched in the region. Our thought-leading scholars advance and promote our shared responsibility to make a difference in society, placing justice, fairness, and equality at the heart of everything we do.

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