Drake University Law School will honor 143 graduates at its commencement ceremony at 7 p.m. Friday, May 15, at the Drake Knapp Center, 2601 Forest Ave.
The ceremony will be preceded at 6:45 p.m. by a formal procession of law students and faculty wearing academic regalia to the Drake Knapp Center from Opperman Hall and Law Library. A bagpiper will lead the procession.
U.S. District Court Judge Mark W. Bennett of the Northern District of Iowa, who graduated from Drake Law School in 1975, will give the commencement address. His speech is titled "Your Life's Blueprint: From Pericles to Facebook."
Bennett was appointed to his federal judgeship in 1994 and served as chief judge from 2000-2007. He is often invited to speak at seminars throughout the United States and has given lectures for Drake law students about issues of trial advocacy, employment law and employment discrimination.
This spring, Bennett has been teaching a class at Drake Law School on Employment Discrimination Litigation. He also has taught classes at the University of Iowa College of Law and the University of Nebraska College of Law.
During a March 2006 visit to Drake, Bennett talked to law students about his decision in the case of two drug trafficking related murder trials, in which he imposed the first death sentences issued in Iowa since 1963. Iowa is one of 12 states that do not have the death penalty, but because the case was tried in federal court, capital punishment was in play.
Bennett is a prolific writer and his numerous published opinions reflect his keen interest in legal scholarship. He is co-author of a book titled "Employment Relationships Law and Practice." He also has published recent articles about high-tech courtrooms and the vanishing civil jury trial.
Prior to his judgeship, Bennett started his own law firm in Des Moines, which became Babich, Bennett & Nickerson. Over the course of more than 16 years, his extensive practice in employment discrimination, constitutional law and other civil rights litigation took him to numerous state and federal trial and appellate courts throughout the United States, resulting in more than 70 reported decisions.
Bennett was selected for inclusion in Best Lawyers, the oldest peer-review publication in the legal profession. He also was the youngest lawyer in the state to receive an AV rating by Martindale-Hubbell and to be inducted as a fellow in the Iowa Academy of Trial Lawyers.
For more information about the commencement ceremony, call 515-271-2057. A reception for graduates and their guests will follow at the Downtown Marriott, 700 Grand Ave., Des Moines.