LCA to Recognize Members of the University of Arizona Law Community During 2023 Convocation

May 9, 2023

The four alumni and community leaders will be recognized for their outstanding achievements, distinguished service to the College, the University of Arizona, their professions.

This year, the Law College Association (LCA) board will recognize four alumni and community leaders for their outstanding achievements, distinguished service to the James E. Rogers College of Law, the University of Arizona, their communities and their professions. They will be presented with awards during this year’s convocation ceremony on May 13.  

Judith Leonard and James S. Rogers (‘72) have been named the recipients of this year’s Law College Association Award, Desiree Reed-Francois (‘97) will receive the University of Arizona Alumni Association's (UAAA) Professional Achievement Award, and Melanie Fontes Rainer (‘10), will be recognized with the UAAA Distinguished Citizen Award.  

Learn more about the four awardees: 

Judith Leonard  
LCA Award 

Judith Leonard served as General Counsel of the Smithsonian Institution from 2009 until her retirement in early 2023. Prior to that position, she served as Vice President and General Counsel of the University of Arizona from 1998 to 2009 and as General Counsel of the Office of National Drug Control Policy in the Executive Office of the President from 1997 to 1998. Leonard was also an attorney for the U.S. Department of Education, an Assistant Attorney General in Arizona, and an Associate University Counsel for the University of North Carolina. During her tenure at the University of Arizona, she taught higher education law and at the University of North Carolina she lectured in the Schools of Medicine, Nursing, Public Health, Dentistry, Pharmacy and Business. She is currently a professor of practice at the James E. Rogers College of Law.

She was elected to membership in the American Law Institute in 2014 and is a member of the National Association of College and University Attorneys and the Association of Corporate Counsel. She currently serves as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Southern Education Foundation, a nonprofit organization committed to advancing equitable education policies that elevate learning for low-income students and students of color in the southern states. From 2014-2018, Leonard served on the American Bar Association’s Legal Education Accreditation Committee, chairing its complaint committee. She is a member of the Board of Visitors for the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law. She is also a member of the Arizona Chapter of the International Women’s Forum. She recently became a member of the inaugural advisory board for the Widener Global Leadership program at Wichita State University. 

Leonard received her master’s and law degrees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is a graduate of Cornell University.

James S. Rogers (‘72) 
LCA Award 

James (Jimmy) S. Rogers is a principal lawyer in Seattle’s The Law Offices of James S. Rogers.  His practice is limited to serious personal injury and product liability litigation.

Rogers is a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, a Fellow of the International Academy of Trial Lawyers, a Fellow of the International Society of Barristers, and a member of the American Board of Trial Advocates. Mr. Rogers is a past president of the Damage Attorneys Roundtable (DART).

Rogers was the Washington State Trial Lawyers Association’s 1998 “Trial Lawyer of the Year” and was named the Washington Defense Trial Lawyers 2010 “Outstanding Plaintiff Trial Lawyer of the Year”.

Rogers was selected as Best Lawyers® 2021 Seattle Personal Injury Litigation-Plaintiffs “Lawyer of the Year”, and Best Lawyers® 2015, 2018 and 2020 Seattle Product Liability Litigation-Plaintiffs “Lawyer of the Year”.  Rogers has been selected for inclusion in “The Best Lawyers in America” every year since 2003.


Desiree Reed-Francois (‘97)  
UAAA Professional Achievement Award 

Desireé Reed-Francois, a 1997 graduate of the University of Arizona College of Law, serves as the University of Missouri’s 21st Director of Athletics.

Since her appointment in 2021, Reed-Francois has begun to transform Mizzou Athletics in every way: from department culture to the student-athlete experience; from facility enhancements to fundraising; and from community engagement to the fan experience.

She came to Mizzou after serving four years as the Director of Athletics at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. She has almost three decades experience in intercollegiate athletics, including senior administrator roles at Virginia Tech, Cincinnati and Tennessee. An adept fundraiser, she has overseen major facility construction and enhancement projects, hired and mentored coaches to award-winning seasons, improved student athlete GPAs and focused on community engagement.

Reed-Francois is the first female athletic director in MU history and the first female athletic director at a public institution in the Southeastern Conference. Currently the 2nd Vice Chair of the LEAD1 Executive Committee, she oversees the NACDA Senior Administrators Mentoring Institute and is a board member for Women Leaders in College Sports and the National Coalition of Minority Football Coaches. She recently served as vice chair of the NCAA Baseball Selection Committee and formerly was a member of the College Football Playoff’s operations committee among many other professional associations.

Melanie Fontes Rainer (‘10)  
UAAA Distinguished Citizen Award 

Melanie Fontes Rainer serves as the Director of the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) where she leads the Department’s enforcement of federal civil rights and privacy laws and directs related policy and strategic initiatives for our nation’s health care system.  In this role, she has led groundbreaking actions, recently announcing a historic environmental justice settlement with the State of Alabama to improve residents exposure to raw sewage through public health measures and investment in waste water disposal systems. Melanie sits on the White House Interagency Task Force on Reproductive Healthcare Access where she has led HHS’ response to the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization 2022 decision.

Previously, she served as Counselor to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra, providing strategic guidance to the Secretary on issues pertaining to civil rights, patient privacy, reproductive health, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), competition in healthcare, equity, and the private insurance market.  In this role, she led implementation of the No Surprises Act, working to improve transparency and health care costs nationwide. 

Before joining the Biden-Harris Administration, Fontes Rainer served as the Special Assistant to the Attorney General and Chief Health Care Advisor at the California Department of Justice, where she led a national team to save the Affordable Care Act and protect healthcare coverage for over 133 million Americans at the U.S. Supreme Court. Additionally, she served as the Women’s Policy Director for the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee where she helped pass the 21st Century Cures Act, Every Student Succeeds Act, and the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act. Melanie is a proud Mexican American who is a fourth generation Arizonan, and double wildcat earning her undergraduate and juris doctor at the University of Arizona. Her work and influence on behalf of women and families in the United States is extraordinary.