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LSU Law celebrates Johnson, deGravelles as Alumna/us of the Year; Four alumni honored for Distinguished Achievement

From left, Harry “Skip” Philips, Thomas Hayes, Chief Justice Bernette Johnson, Tom Galligan, Judge John deGravelles, James Brown, and Jane Brandt

BATON ROUGE – Louisiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Bernette Joshua Johnson and U.S. District Court Judge John W. deGravelles, Middle District of Louisiana, highlighted the roster of notable alumni honored at the LSU Paul M. Hebert Law Center Distinguished Alumni Celebration. Johnson and deGravelles were named Alumna/us of the Year and four other LSU Law alumni were named Distinguished Achievement honorees at a ceremony March 2 at the Loews Hotel in New Orleans.

“Chief Justice Bernette Joshua Johnson and Judge John Weadon deGravelles exemplify the characteristics and careers we hope for in and from our graduates. They are great lawyers, great jurists, and great people,” LSU Law dean Tom Galligan said. “Through their work, they have made peoples’ lives better and they have done so consistently and selflessly. They have dedicated their lives to the ideal and reality of justice for all.”

LSU Law’s 2018 Distinguished Achivement honorees were Jane Politz Brandt, of counsel at Thompson & Knight in Dallas; James A. Brown, partner at Liskow & Lewis in New Orleans; Thomas M. Hayes III, partner at Hayes, Harkey, Smith & Cascio, LLP, in Monroe, La.; and Harry J. “Skip” Philips, Jr., managing partner at Taylor, Porter, Brooks, & Phillips in Baton Rouge.

“Our Distinguished Achievement honorees are among our most noteworthy graduates, and we recognize them for their professional achievement, career distinction, and support and service to the Law Center and the community,” Galligan said.

LSU Law Center’s Distinguished Alumnus Award is given annually to alumni for rare distinction in professional achievement and loyalty to the LSU Law Center. The Distinguished Achievement awards recognize graduates for professional achievement and career distinction, service to and support of LSU Law, and service to the community.


Johnson was the first woman elected to serve on the Civil District Court of New Orleans in 1984. In 1994, she was elected Chief Judge, and then to the Louisiana Supreme Court later that year. She became the Court’s 25th Chief Justice, its second female Chief Justice, and its first African-American Chief Justice in 2013. Johnson is a 1969 graduate of the LSU Law Center and was one of the first African-American women to attend the law school. She was inducted into the LSU Law Center’s Hall of Fame in 1996 and was also named as an Honorary Inductee into the LSU Order of the Coif.

“I appreciate everything that LSU Law did for me,” Johnson said in her acceptance speech. “The excellent education that I received from LSU Law School, I’m just tremendously grateful for. It prepares you to stand on your own two feet and make good decisions, and it served me well.”


DeGravelles has served on the U.S. District Court, Middle District of Louisiana since his nomination by President Barack Obama in March 2014 and confirmation by the Senate in July of the same year. Prior to the appointment, DeGravelles was in private practice from 1974-2014 and was a founding partner in the Baton Rouge firm of deGravelles, Palmintier, Holthaus and Fruge’. A 1974 graduate of the LSU Law Center, he has been an adjunct professor since 1994.

“LSU produces great lawyers that can go toe to toe with lawyers from any part of the country from any school,” deGravelles said. “We are blessed to be graduates of LSU Law School.”


In her legal career, Brandt represented national and international clients in intellectual property disputes before federal trial and appellate courts, the International Trade Commission, and before arbitration panels. She graduated with honors in 1986 from LSU Paul M. Hebert Law Center, where she was on Louisiana Law Review, Delta Theta Phi, Phi Kappa Phi scholastic honorary fraternity and Order of the Coif.

“In all my endeavors throughout the United States, from the east coast and the west coast and everywhere in between, I’ve been proud, very proud to be an LSU grad,” Brandt said.


Brown heads the Commercial Litigation Section as well as its Professional Liability Practice Group at Liskow & Lewis. He is a former member of the firm’s Board of Directors and serves as the firm’s Loss Prevention Partner. Brown serves on the New Orleans Ethics Review Board by appointment of the Mayor. The Board administers and enforces the New Orleans Code of Governmental Ethics and appoints and oversees the New Orleans Inspector General. He is a 1984 graduate of the LSU Law Center.

“I want to thank the Law School for giving me a great legal education, and my law professors like George Pugh, Frank Maraist, and Judge Alvin Rubin, whom I got to clerk for,” Brown said.


A 1977 LSU Law graduate, Hayes is AV rated by Martindale Hubbell, is a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, and a Council Member of the Louisiana State Law Institute, where he also serves as a member of the Committee on Louisiana Civil Procedure. He was a member of the Board of Governors of the Louisiana State Bar Association from 1991-93 and 2012-15, and he is past president of the Fourth Judicial District Bar Association and the Fred Fudickar Inn of Court.

“My LSU professors were prodigious writers, and I have relied upon them my entire career as a lawyer. I am deeply grateful to LSU for the career it gave me, which has been so personally fulfilling,” Hayes said. “If I am due any honor as a lawyer, it is because of them and the LSU Law School. I am so deeply grateful to it.”


Philips serves as Taylor Porter’s Managing Partner and is a member of the Firm’s Executive Committee. He received his Juris Doctor from LSU Paul M. Hebert Law Center in 1983, where he was the editor-in-chief of the Louisiana Law Review and elected to Order of the Coif. Prior to attending law school, Philips was an investigator in the public corruption section of the Criminal Division of the Louisiana Attorney General’s office. He is a graduate of the FBI National Academy and a retired major general in the U.S. Army Reserve. Philips is an adjunct professor at LSU Law, where he teaches courses on Professional Responsibility, Law and Medicine, and Insurance Law.

“My education at LSU Law prepared me for a career that I could have only anticipated,” Philips said. “Not only was my legal education extraordinary and prepared me so well for this wonderful career, having been invited to stay affiliated with the law school has been truly remarkable.”

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