A Legacy of Trailblazers

Southwestern's Second Annual Graduation Banquet in 1915

From the outset, Southwestern’s leadership actively encouraged the enrollment of students from all walks of life, regardless of gender, race, religion or national origin long before most other law schools around the country did so. As a result, numerous outstanding Southwestern graduates have earned a place in history as trailblazers in the law and public service:


Southwestern’s First Graduate

Betty Trier Berry became Southwestern’s first graduate in 1915. She went on to work in the newly founded Los Angeles County Public Defender’s Office, earning the distinction of being the first woman to work as a public defender in the United States. She is honored with a plaque on the Criminal Courts building in downtown Los Angeles.

On the Bench


Hon. Stanley Mosk ‘35

Longest serving California Supreme Court Justice (1964-2001)


Hon. Vaino Spencer ‘52

First female African American judge in California


Hon. Arleigh Woods ‘53
First female African American appellate court justice in the U.S.


Hon. Fred Gabourie ‘63

First Native American judge in California


Hon. Frances Munoz ‘71

First Latino trial judge in the U.S.


Hon. Ronald Lew ‘71 

First Chinese American federal district court judge in the continental U.S.


Hon. Shala Sabet ‘85

First Iranian appointed as a judge in California

Elected Office


Hon. Tom Bradley ‘56

First African American Mayor of Los Angeles; served unprecedented five terms


Hon. Julian Dixon ‘67

First African American to chair U.S. Congress House Ethics Committee


Hon. Denise Moreno Ducheny ‘79

First woman and first Latino to serve as Chair of the California Assembly Budget Committee


Hon. Matthew Fong ‘85

As California State Treasurer, was highest ranking Asian American elected official in California

Other Public Service and Leadership


Rosalind Goodrich Bates ‘26

First Latina licensed as a an attorney in California


Harriett Buhai ‘55

A leading pro bono attorney representing poor women, for whom the Los Angeles Family Law Project was renamed as the Harriett Buhai Center for Family Law


Karen Nobumoto ‘89

First government attorney, first Asian American, and first woman of color elected President of the State Bar of California