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Spotlight on Diversity: A Conversation with Judge Dwayne K. Moring

San Diego Superior Court Judge Dwayne K. Moring plays a prominent role as a leader in the criminal justice system. Moring first worked as a prosecutor where he tried misdemeanor offenses.  Next, he was a public defender, representing indigent defendants charged with serious crimes. He then served as a deputy district attorney, prosecuting individuals accused of committing sex crimes against children and adults. In 2008, he was appointed by then Governor Schwarzenegger to a judicial seat on the San Diego County Superior Court where he continues to preside over criminal matters in a general trial department of the South County Courthouse.

Moring stated, “I've strived to lead a life of purpose, service, and leadership consistent with Pepperdine's Christian mission. The careers I chose had a strong service component emphasizing helping others and improving society.”

Judge Moring is a double Pepperdine graduate (BA ’84; JD ’91), a member of the School of Law Board of Advisors, and a strong support to the Pepperdine Law alumni network. He is also keenly aware of his distinguished position as a role model for minority groups in legal education and diverse representation in the legal profession. Moring explained, “Growing up, my parents knew the doctors, lawyers and judges in the San Diego African-American community. It wasn’t a foreign idea to me that people of color could work in these professions. Sometimes I hear young people say, ‘I didn't know it was something I could do.’ It’s important for professionals who are people of color to be actively engaged in the community so that kids can see that representation in their desired profession.”

Moring developed lifelong bonds through his Pepperdine undergraduate and law school studies - friendships that continue to this day over group text messages, emails and mini vacations. “When I started (law school) in 1988, there were only two African American males in the class ahead of us, the class of ’90. And the class before that had just one! My class had eleven African American students.” Moring saw first-hand that Pepperdine had the power to work to bring in a more diversified class. Moring would go on to become one of three African-American students from his class who would be appointed to judicial seats.

Judge Moring understands the importance of diverse representation across the legal profession. “I think that everyone should be in tune to the needs of everyone else,” Moring expressed. “It shouldn't take an African-American attorney to represent an African-American client - everyone should be aware of the needs of any given gender or ethnicity.” Through his work in government and various volunteer roles, Moring says he works toward this very goal of parity in legal representation each and every day.

When asked about the role he can take as a leader to continue to foster growth of diverse representation in the legal community, Judge Moring replied: “We talk about the diversity pipeline, and it starts literally from the time kids are in elementary school. You’ve got to encourage them to set their sights on college at the earliest possible stage. Whenever I can, I  go to schools when they have reading days and read to students or visit for career days. Be a role model, go to career fairs, and tell kids about what they too can someday do.”

Today, in addition to his various roles as a mentor to Pepperdine Law students, Judge Moring is active on the board of the Crawford High School Academy of Law. The Academy, a state sanctioned program at one of California’s most diverse high schools, encourages students to consider a career in the law. Board members are shepherding this program, engaging with law firms that create student internships, ensuring that students attend college fairs, and supporting any measure that will help high school students realize their legal career aspirations.

Moring was also instrumental in bringing the For People of Color event to Pepperdine Law this past fall. Moring said, “I think the Law School has to be very creative in increasing our level of diversity.” Referencing the pipeline, Moring outlined the need for universities to reach out to high school and even elementary school students.

“If prospective law students and the rest of the legal community sees Pepperdine as a leader in increasing diversity through hosting events like the For People of Color program, that will have a significant impact. Pepperdine will build a reputation as a school that fosters diversity.”