Retired U.S. District Judge U.W. Clemon (Chief Judge N.D. Alabama), joined M&S as Of Counsel on January 1, 2017. Judge Clemon was Alabama’s first black federal judge, serving as the Chief Judge of the Northern District of Alabama from 1999-2006. Joining M&S gives him a chance to return to his roots in civil rights and other public spirited and complex litigation.
Judge Clemon served as the trial judge during Lilly Ledbetter’s successful trial against Goodyear. The Supreme Court created new legal standards and reversed Ms. Ledbetter’s trial victory. In her dissent, Justice Ginsberg called on Congress to act to restore the law and the legal principles consistent with Judge Clemon’s trial decisions. The Lilly Ledbetter bill became the first law that President Obama signed into law as President. Ms. Ledbetter has this to say about Judge Clemon: “There is no finer person or jurist than Judge U.W. Clemon. As the presiding judge, he managed my trial exactly how it should have been. He was fair to both sides. But for him, I may never have had my day in court and may never have had the opportunity to make history to change the law for the better for all Americans.”
Judge Clemon serves on the plaintiffs’ Steering Committee in perhaps the largest antitrust case in the nation, BlueCross Antitrust. Judge Clemon is also frequently deployed as a mediator, arbitrator or court-appointed Special Master including serving as Special Master in a historic M&S case, Norflet v. John Hancock.
As a student activist at Miles College, Judge Clemon confronted the infamous Eugene “Bull” Connor over Birmingham’s segregation ordinances in 1962, and marched with Dr. Martin Luther King in the following year. In 1968 he graduated from Columbia Law School, where he began a life-long relationship with the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc.
Before his judicial appointment, Judge Clemon was a civil rights lawyer. He sued Coach Paul Bear Bryant in 1969 to desegregate the University of Alabama’s football team, and has represented many plaintiffs in employment cases. He was the first African American elected to the Alabama State Senate since Reconstruction and served respectively as chairman of the Rules and Judiciary Committees.
He confronted Governor George C. Wallace on many race-related issues. After nearly thirty years of service, Judge Clemon retired from the federal bench in 2009.
Judge Clemon was profiled in the New York Times Magazine for his decades-long involvement in the debate over desegregation in Alabama public schools. Judge Clemon represented Black plaintiffs in a lawsuit against suburban Gardendale, Alabama, whose all-white council proposed plans to split the community’s schools into its own district, separate from the more diverse schools in Jefferson County. The district judge found that race discrimination was a motivating factor, but allowed the split to go forward. Judge Clemon argued the case on appeal, and in February 2018 the decision was reversed.