It has been said repeatedly and emphatically: The University at Buffalo School of Law must "look like America" by our supporters and leaders. The goal is simple but never easy – to identify and recruit academically promising students and accomplished faculty of color, and to take advantage of the cultural and academic richness that a diverse population provides.
J. Mason Davis Jr. ’59 was the first African-American to practice as a senior partner with a major Alabama law firm, Sirote & Permutt in Birmingham. An Alabama native, he came north to Buffalo for law school because African-Americans were denied entrance to all of the schools in the University of Alabama system. His early cases included defending lunch counter sit-in protesters for racial integration, and handling employment discrimination and more than 100 voter discrimination matters.
Hon. Samuel L. Green ’67 retired after serving as a justice of the New York Sstate Supreme Court Appellate Division, Fourth Department, for 28 years. Following graduation, he was in private practice for five years and served on the Buffalo City Court before ascending to the State Supreme Court. “It’s been a great run,” he has said in reflection. “I’ve enjoyed every moment of it.”
The late Hon. Hugh B. Scott ’74 served as magistrate judge for the U.S. District Court, Western District of New York’s Re-entry Program, an intensive post-release program of supervision and targeted help for ex-inmates under federal probation. Scott was the first African-American to become assistant attorney general in charge in Western New York, as well as the first African-American to become assistant U.S. Attorney, assistant corporation counsel and assistant county attorney. Scott was elected to Buffalo City Court at age 32, then re-elected to another 10-year term before leaving the position to become the first African-American to sit on the federal bench in the Western District of New York. He also served as an adjunct professor at the law school.
A road of legal scholarship and practice that began at the School of Law led Hon. Julio M. Fuentes ’75 to the second-highest court in the nation. When President Bill Clinton in 2000 appointed him to the U.S. Court of Appeals, 3rd Circuit, Fuentes became the law school’s highest-ranking federal jurist. He had been a judge on New Jersey’s Superior Court bench in Essex County since 1987; served as a municipal court judge; and previously practiced civil and criminal law in New Jersey.
Brent L. Wilson ’76 is a partner in the Atlanta law firm Elarbee, Thompson, Sapp & Wilson, LLP. He devotes his practice to defending employers in employment-related litigation matters, and counseling employers regarding day-to-day employment decisions to avoid litigation. He works with a variety of employers nationwide, including communications companies, service providers, educational institutions, non-profit groups, public entities and manufacturing operations.
Margaret W. Wong '76 was born in Hong Kong and came to the United States on a student visa. After graduating from law school, she started with a $25 desk and did her own secretarial work, as she built Margaret Wong & Associates, an immigration law powerhouse in Cleveland. The firm now has additional offices in Cleveland, New York, Chicago, Atlanta, Nashville, Memphis, Minneapolis, Columbus and Raleigh, serving both individual and corporate clients throughout the United States.
Vikki L. Pryor ’78 is the founder of Change Create Transform, a counseling service that provides businesses and individuals with a fresh approach to though leadership, problem-solving and idea generation. With over twenty years of senior executive experience, she was the first African-American woman to head a U.S. insurance company, SBLI, where she served for eleven years. Throughout her career, she has a record of helping individuals and mission driven institutions change and achieve results.
Appointed by President George W. Bush, Michael A. Battle ’81 formerly directed the Executive Office for United States Attorneys at the Department of Justice. Previously, he served as U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York. He also has served as a judge in Erie County Family Court; as assistant in charge of the Buffalo office of the New York State attorney general; as a federal public defender and assistant U.S. Attorney; and as a staff attorney with the Legal Aid Society Civil Division. He is now a Partner at Barnes & Thornburg LLP in Washington, DC.
Mark K. Suzumoto '82 is Chief Legal Officer with Capital Brands, LLC., in Los Angeles, California. Previously, a founding partner of Van Etten Suzumoto & Sipprelle LLC, he practiced in the areas of commercial litigation, and unemployment law. He is also a longtime supporter of the Boy Scouts, serving on the Executive Council of the organization's Ventura County Council since 2002.
A human rights advocate, Nicole C. Lee ’02 is the founder of Inclusive Life, a movement centered on infusing inclusion through all levels of daily life, and a co-founder of the Black Movement-Law Project (BMLP), an organization that provides legal and strategy assistance to Movement For Black Lives affiliates and human rights organizations operating in local communities. For nearly a decade she served as President of TransAfrica, and has given testimony before the U.S. Congress, the United Nations and other international bodies.
Joseph M. Hanna ’05, a partner practicing commercial litigation with the Buffalo law firm Goldberg Segalla, has committed energy and enthusiasm toward promoting diversity in the legal profession. As past-president of the Minority Bar Association of Western New York, he spearheaded a clerkship program that places minority students into positions with criminal, civil and family court judges. He is the founder and president of Bunkers in Baghdad, a nonprofit that collects and sends golf equipment to U.S. soldiers and veterans worldwide to aid in recreation and rehabilitation from injuries.