For the second year in a row and the fourth time since 2006, a Thomas Jefferson School of Law student has won the highly prestigious Burton Award for Distinguished Writing. With its fourth Burton winner, TJSL now equals Stanford as the California law school with the most Burton Awards.
Sean E. Smith, a third-year student at TJSL, is the only California law student selected in 2011 and one of only 15 students in the nation to win this award. Smith’s winning article is titled “Sealing Up the Problem of California's ‘One Strike and You're Out’ Approach for Serious Juvenile Offenders.”
“I am extremely honored to be a recipient of the 2011 Burton Award,” said Smith. “That this prestigious Award has honored four TJSL students in the past five years is a tribute to the TJSL institution, which promotes high expectations in its students and provides them with the tools needed to achieve them. Receiving this Award has engendered for me a sense of responsibility and motivation to pursue a legal career that is meaningful both personally and for those whom I will serve."
“As a school that has placed value on scholarly work, we are particularly pleased that our institutional emphasis on sound research has extended to our students and is recognized externally by our fourth Burton Award in the past five years,” said TJSL Dean and President Rudy Hasl.
The 2011 Burton Awards gala will be held on Monday, June 13, 2011, at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., and Smith will be in attendance. The featured speaker will be U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, and there will be a special presentation to her colleague, Associate Justice Stephen Breyer.
Past Burton Award winners from TJSL include: fourth year part-time student Skye Resendes, who won in 2010, Anne Knight ’08, who won in 2008; and Jennifer Siverts ’06 who was a winner in 2006.
The Burton Awards program also honors 30 partners and counsel from the nation’s 600 largest firms in addition to the law students.
According to William C. Burton, Founder & Chairman, “Our efforts involve some of the finest professors from the most renowned law schools in the country. We also are fortunate that other distinguished members of the legal profession are also involved, including judges, partners, associates and even law school students. We hope to continue to be a central and pivotal voice against convoluted and stilted writing. In this, the seventh year of the program, I can now report that legalese is finally a fugitive on the run.”
Smith, who earned his undergraduate degree at UC Santa Barbara, plans to go into criminal defense work upon graduating and passing the bar. He has a strong interest in seeing reform in the California juvenile justice system, particularly his efforts to eventually have 2000’s Proposition 21 repealed or amended. That law permanently preserves the juvenile court records of serious offenders, even if they have been successfully rehabilitated or there are mitigating circumstances to the crime or crimes.
There are mis-conceptions about juvenile law, Smith feels, and that the state should reconsider the trend that tougher laws are the only way to combat juvenile crime.
“Tough on crime isn’t always the answer,” Smith says. "It’s not the only way.”