Move over Hollywood! The Student Bar Association at Thomas Jefferson School of Law is your new competition when it comes to producing glitzy and glamorous award shows. In fact, this year’s Barristers Ball on Saturday, February 11, raised the production bar of the annual event to new heights and proved that several members of the TJSL community could just as easily have detoured into show business rather than pursue law-related careers.
Produced by the SBA and appropriately named “A Red Carpet Affair,” the formal ball had it all: live music, a multi-talented master of ceremonies, an Oscar-worthy original video, a long runway stage, comedic and singing award presenters and, of course, a red carpet photo opportunity for all of the fashionably dressed guests. They included 472 students, faculty, staff, alumni and their invitees, who filled the ballroom of the Manchester Grand Hyatt overlooking San Diego Bay.
The awards ceremony got underway with an attention-grabbing video produced by the SBA’s Ryan Ciriaco, also the ball’s emcee and organizer, and TJSL Art Director Sherwin Laranga, who expertly shot and edited the video. Guests started moving to the bass pumping beat of a popular dance song as the video featured well-choreographed TJSL students dancing their way through the halls of the TJSL campus, stopping along the way to rev up faculty and staff for the upcoming ball. The scene that brought the house down showed Dean Rudy Hasl in his office, slipping on Beats headphones and lip dubbing some of the tune’s catchy lyrics.
Ciriaco, who also emceed last year’s Barrister Ball, once again wowed the crowd with his opening act, which included a “Saturday Night Live”-type parody of posters titled “Hey Gurl” on the big screen that cleverly centered on TJSL Professor Anders Kaye resembling actor Ryan Gosling. Ciriaco also performed a little jazz number ironically called “I’m not going to sing tonight.”
Professor Thomas Golden presented the first award, established by the SBA in his honor in 2004: the A. Thomas Golden Alumnus of the Year Award. This year’s recipient is San Diego Superior Court Commissioner Gary Bloch, a 1981 graduate who, as Professor Golden noted, “has been the catalyst for the annual Judicial Officers Mixer at the law school” as well as a dedicated member of the TJSL Alumni Association Board of Directors.
Professor Marjorie Cohn presented the 15th Annual Charles T. Bumer Civil Libertarian Book Award, to student Nancy Astifo, who came to the U.S. from Iraq at the age of seven. The award is given by the National Lawyers Guild to the student who best personifies the ideals to which Bumer, a San Diego criminal defense attorney who called himself a “1st Amendment Freak” and performed a lot of pro bono work in support of civil rights and the anti-war movement. Bumer’s daughter Elizabeth is a 1983 graduate of the law school and helped selected Astifo, a third year student, for the award. Astifo interns at the San Diego Public Defenders Office, and was an intern at Amnesty International, the Employee Rights Center and Father Joe’s Village.
“She is passionate about helping indigent clients and has dedicated her life to human rights,” said Professor Cohn when describing Astifo. “Before law school, she woke up at 6 a.m. every day for a month to call prisoners at Abu Ghraib and translate for a journalist who later compiled a book of their stories.”
Adding more entertainment to the evening, Professor Leah Christensen and student Kevin Kampschror introduced the 1L Professor of the Year award category by delivering an almost Broadway caliber rendition of “Tomorrow” from the musical “Annie.”
Surprise service recognition awards went to current SBA President Marty Stratte and Professor William Slomanson. In praising Stratte, Student Services Director Lisa Ferreira applauded his service and dedication and remarked that “Marty shoots straight from the hip.” Stratte thanked the students for “letting me represent you - I am a better person for going to TJSL.”
Professor Slomanson was recognized for his 35 years of service to the law school. “He truly is a great man,” said Ciriaco. “He does so much and cares so much for TJSL.”
Ciriaco also explained that Professor Slomanson has performed several marriage ceremonies for TJSL students and graduates, including his own to fellow 3L Samantha Ciriaco.
With his family watching from their table, Professor Slomanson accepted the award by giving heartfelt credit to his family. “My success is due to my wife Ana and four children (Lorena ‘’03, Michael ’04, Paul and Christina) who are here tonight. What you’ve given to me belongs to her (Ana).”
Before the guests moved into an adjacent ballroom for dessert and dancing until 1:30 a.m., Ciriaco expressed appreciation to the students who helped produce the ball and concluded the awards ceremony with some poignant remarks.
“The past 2 ½ years have been the funnest and greatest of my life,” said Ciriaco, who will graduate in May. “You’ve all enriched my life….I wouldn’t change a single thing about my experience.”
"This year’s Barristers Ball was so much fun," said SBA President Marty Stratte. "It provided the entire TJSL family with an opportunity to celebrate all of this year’s accomplishments that were attained by the students, faculty, staff and alumni of TJSL. The entire SBA put a lot of work into the event over the past year and it was such an amazing feeling to watch it finally happen. Thank you to everyone who attended—we hope you had a good time!"
• Alumnus of the Year – Commissioner Gary Bloch ‘81
• 1L Professor of the Year – Jeff Slattery
• 2L Professor of the Year - Leah Christensen
• 3L Professor of the Year – Steve Semeraro
• Adjunct Professor of the Year – Amy Day
• Lewis & Clark Awards (Service and Dedication to TJSL and Its Students) – Adjunct Professor Judi Sanzo, Web Application Developer Patricia Ramert & Art Director Sherwin Laranga
• Staff Member of the Year – Student Services Director Lisa Ferreira
• Student Organization President of the Year – Eric Bernsen of Phi Alpha Delta
• Charles T. Bumer Civil Libertarian Award – Nancy Astifo
• Special Recognition Awards – SBA President Marty Stratte & Professor William Slomanson