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University of Iowa News Release

May 15, 2006

Minnesota Judge, Former IC Police Officer Ross Speaks at Law Commencement

Kevin Ross, a judge on the Minnesota Court of Appeals and a graduate of the University of Iowa College of Law, urged UI law graduates on Saturday not to become the cartoon image of lawyers held by so many in the public.

"If you let it, the law can and will turn you into a thing, a caricature that people of ordinary sensibilities resent," said Ross, who delivered the commencement address to about 190 UI law graduates at Hancher Auditorium Saturday. "Do not be so conditioned to rely on your competitive nature that you make yourself into a thing you don't want to become, the contentious, self-absorbed lawyer in the jokes."

A former Iowa City police officer, Ross was appointed to the Minnesota Court of Appeals by Gov. Tim Pawlenty and sworn in in February. He was a member of the Iowa City Police Department from 1987 to 1992, when he left the force to attend law school at the UI. Following his graduation from law school in 1994, he held two judicial clerkships before joining a Minneapolis law firm in 1997. 

Ross grew up in Davenport, where he graduated from West High School.

He told the law graduates to always remember the impulse to idealism and the desire to improve other peoples' lives that brought them to law school in the first place. He admitted that can be difficult under the pressure of competition and the need for billable hours, when it's easy to see the client as just a client and not a person, or to shade the truth so it's not a lie, but not really the truth, either.

"Ask yourself, if this temptation becomes my conduct, and my conduct becomes my habit, and my habit becomes my character, is that the person I want to be?" he said. "Shape the practice, instead of letting the practice shape you."

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Service, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Tom Snee, 319-384-0010, tom-snee@uiowa.edu.