Bowen honors alumni, raises $80,000 for access to justice initiatives

The University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law honored two of its alumni for outstanding public and professional service during its 9th annual scholarship luncheon on Monday, Oct. 1, while raising more than $80,000 to support the school’s access to justice initiatives.

More than 400 people attended the luncheon at the Marriott Grand Ballroom to honor the late Don Zimmerman, the longtime executive director of the Arkansas Municipal League, and Bowen Associate Dean and Professor of Law Terrence Cain.

Bowen Law Dean Theresa Beiner said proceeds from this year’s luncheon will support Bowen’s access to justice initiatives, which help provide legal services to under-represented citizens in Arkansas.

Proceeds from previous luncheons have funded five scholarships totaling $150,000 for deserving students; funded a student emergency fund that supports students who experience short-term financial crises; and helped fund the Delta Clinic, which expanded to two additional counties – Ashley and Drew – this year. The clinic also serves clients in Dermott, Dumas, Lake Village, McGehee, and Warren.

Zimmerman, a 1972 alumnus of Bowen, passed away in June. He had worked 52 years for the Arkansas Municipal League, including 42 years as its executive director, which made him the longest-serving director of a state municipal league in the nation. Zimmerman’s wife, Jan Lea Zimmerman, accepted the award on her husband’s behalf.

“I know Don would be pleased as he dedicated his life to helping public servants across Arkansas’s 500 cities and towns,” she said. “Don was very proud to be a graduate of this law school. I know he has many friends in the room today and that warms my heart.”

Zimmerman represented Arkansas municipalities before the Arkansas General Assembly. A 1978 U.S. Supreme Court ruling held that municipal corporations could be held liable for damages to an individual, which set off a flood of litigation against cities. Because insurers considered cities a bad risk, Don created the Municipal Legal Defense Program, which allowed cities to pool their risks. It was the first of its kind in the country.

Don worked incredibly hard to create more optional benefit programs to offer League members, including the Municipal Health Benefit Fund, the Municipal League Workers’ Compensation Trust, the Firefighters Supplemental Income Protection and Death Benefit Program, and Municipal Vehicle and Property Programs. These programs have saved Arkansas municipalities millions of dollars over the last three decades.

In 1981, Zimmerman and the League pressed for a local option sales tax for cities and towns. Since then voters have passed local sales taxes to fund essential services like public safety, street and infrastructure, and amenities like parks and recreation facilities.

Michael Flannery, associate dean for academic affairs and professor of law at Bowen, introduced Terrence Cain, this year’s recipient of the Faculty Excellence Award in Public Service.

Cain, a 1999 Bowen graduate, has been on the faculty at the law school since 2007 and serves as the school’s associate dean for faculty development. In the classroom, he challenges his students to critically evaluate current legal doctrines and consider whether they deal effectively and fairly with contemporary issues.

Cain was nominated for the award by Bowen law students, Flannery said. Bowen’s graduating classes of 2013, 2014, 2017, and 2018 all selected Cain to serve as faculty marshal or hooder at their graduations.

In addition to his class and administrative responsibilities, Cain devotes more than 100 hours per year to pro bono legal representation of people who cannot afford to pay an attorney. These cases, primarily in the areas of family law and criminal law, help low-income people deal with life-changing legal matters.

Photos by Benjamin Krain

Top right: Jan Zimmerman accepts the UA Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law award for public service for her late husband, Don Zimmerman, former longtime executive director of the Arkansas Municipal League. Presenting the award is Mark Hayes, the League’s current executive director. 

Above left: Bowen Law professor Terrence Cain gets a thumbs up from Rita Gruber (right), chief judge of the Arkansas Court of Appeals, after being honored with the Bowen School of Law award for public service.

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