School of Law News
2011 Thorsnes Prizes for Academic Excellence Awarded
San Diego, May 15, 2011 – The University of San Diego School of Law today announced the recipients of the 2011 Thorsnes Prizes for Outstanding Legal Scholarship and for Excellence in Teaching. Professor of Law Steven D. Smith was awarded the 2011 Thorsnes Prize for Outstanding Legal Scholarship, and Professor-in-Residence Junichi Semitsu was awarded the 2011 Thorsnes Prize for Excellence in Teaching.
Professor Steven Smith was selected as the 2011 Thorsnes Prize winner for Outstanding Legal Scholarship for his book, The Disenchantment of Secular Discourse, which was published in 2010 by Harvard University Press. Professor Smith is one of the nation's foremost scholars in the area of law and religion. He teaches in the areas of law and religion and constitutional law. Earlier this year, Professor Smith was named the 2011-12 Class of 1975 Endowed Scholar by the University of San Diego, which recognizes meritorious teaching, leadership and academic accomplishments of a professor in the law school.
Professor Smith received his BA from Brigham Young University in 1976 and JD from Yale University in 1979. Before joining the USD law faculty in 2002, he was the Robert and Marion Short professor of law at the University of Notre Dame Law School and was previously the Byron R. White Professor of Law at the University of Colorado School of Law. Professor Smith’s many other scholarly works include The Constitution and the Pride of Reason (Oxford University Press, 1998) and Foreordained Failure: The Quest for a Constitutional Principle of Religious Freedom (Oxford University Press, 1995). Smith’s articles on law and religion and constitutional law have been published in the Michigan Law Review, the Yale Law Journal, the Virginia Law Review, the University of Pennsylvania Law Review and the Texas Law Review.
Thorsnes Prize winner for Excellence in Teaching, Professor-in-Residence Junichi Semitsu, graduated with honors from the University of California, Berkeley with a degree in economics in 1996. There, he received the American College Personnel Association's Outstanding Undergraduate Student Staff Member award. Semitsu then graduated with honors from Stanford Law School, where he won Best Individual Oral Advocate in the Kirkwood Moot Court Competition. He also served as senior editor and ombudsman on the Stanford Law Review, class president, and co-director of the annual law school musical.
After graduating in 1999, Semitsu clerked for the Honorable James R. Browning of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. After practicing law, he taught at the University of California, Berkeley in both the law school and in the Department of African American Studies. He received the Asian Pacific Council's 2004-2005 Inspirational Faculty Member of the Year Award and was placed on the Chancellor's Faculty Heroes List in 2006. At Berkeley, he also served as the director of June Jordan's Poetry for the People, a creative writing program.
About the Thorsnes Prizes for Excellence in Teaching and Outstanding Legal Scholarship
In 1995, law school alumnus Michael T. Thorsnes, '68, established the Thorsnes Prize for Excellence in Teaching, which is awarded each year to a University of San Diego School of Law faculty member. The recipient of the award is selected by a majority vote of upper division law students. The Thorsnes Prize for Outstanding Legal Scholarship, established in 1999, recognizes USD School of Law faculty members who have contributed significant scholarship to the national and international legal canon.
About the University of San Diego School of Law
The University of San Diego School of Law is a center of academic excellence focused on preparing its students for legal practice in the new century. One of the most selective law schools in the country, the School of Law’s nationally recognized faculty create a demanding, yet welcoming environment that emphasizes individualized education. USD law school graduates consistently score higher than the state average on the California Bar Exam and go on to practice law throughout the country and abroad, forming an influential network of alumni. The USD School of Law is one of only 81 law schools in the country to have a chapter of the Order of the Coif, the most distinguished rank of American law schools. The school is accredited by the American Bar Association and is a member of the Association of American Law Schools. Founded in 1954, the law school is part of the University of San Diego, a private, nonprofit, independent, Roman Catholic university chartered in 1949.
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