Vial-Lemmon Family Continuing the Bench/Bar Legacy
By Celia R. Cangelosi
Louisiana Bar Journal Vol. 54, No. 6 433-435
James P. Vial, the father of United States District Court Judge Mary Ann Vial Lemmon, grew up on a farm in Hahnville, La., one of several children of St. Charles Parish Sheriff Leon C. Vial and Irma Martin Vial. Early on, Judge Lemmon said, her father vowed to pursue a career that would not require him to milk cows! He chose the law, as did his daughter, her husband, retired Louisiana Supreme Court Justice Harry T. Lemmon, and four of their six children.
James P. Vial, born in 1908, was a 1935 graduate of Loyola University Law School. He practiced in Hahnville until his death in 1987. As a legal practitioner, he was known for his success in court and his astute business dealings. A devoted family man, he was remembered by his clients as much for his skill in guiding the reconciliation of separated spouses or squabbling siblings as for his shrewdness in negotiating insurance claims.
Mary Ann Vial’s legal journey began in 1961 at Loyola University Law School. At age 19, while in law school, she met and married Harry T. Lemmon, an older law student attending law school on “the GI bill.” They married in December of her first year in law school. When she graduated, at age 22, she was the mother of three children and still managed to graduate second in her class. She also was editor of the Loyola Law Review. After graduation in 1964, Mary Ann Vial Lemmon joined her father and husband in practice in Hahnville until she was elected to the 29th Judicial District Court in 1981. In 1996, Judge Mary Ann Vial Lemmon was appointed to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana by President William J.Clinton. In 2004, she served as chair of the National Conference of Federal Trial Judges of the American Bar Association. In March 2007, she was named to the Hall of Fame of the Louisiana Center for Women and Government.
Louisiana Supreme Court Justice Harry T. Lemmon (now retired) grew up in Morgan City and graduated from Southwestern Louisiana Institute in Lafayette. He attended Loyola University Law School, graduating cum laude in 1963. He practiced in Hahnville until 1970 when he was elected to the Louisiana 4th Circuit Court of Appeal, where he served until his election to the Supreme Court in 1980. He retired from the Supreme Court in 2001 and now has an appellate consulting practice. In 2001, Justice Harry T. Lemmon was named Distinguished Jurist by the Louisiana Bar Foundation and was honored by the Appellate Judges Conference and the Council of Appellate Lawyers Association for his outstanding contributions to legal and judicial education. He also received an honorary doctorate from Loyola, where he served on the adjunct faculty for more than 20 years. He served as a member of the board of directors of the American Judicature Society. He is the coauthor of a Louisiana Civil Procedure Treatise published by West. He also was honored with the St. Ives Award by Loyola School of Law Alumni Association in recognition of his active involvement in the progression of the law school and his contributions to the law alumni association.
The Lemmons have six children, four of whom are Loyola Law School graduates.
Andrew Lemmon is the first of the third generation of Vial-Lemmon lawyers, having graduated from Loyola in 1987 as a member of the Loyola Law Review and in 1994 from the George Washington University with the LL.M. degree in environmental law. He combines the family’s work with a passion for the environment and has made it into a lifelong business. In April 2000, with the birth of his son, Stuart, perhaps the fourth generation, he came back to where it all started by opening the Hahnville office of the Lemmon Law Firm in the original office of his grandfather, James P. Vial, complete with his grandfather’s original desk. Andrew now has a trial practice in New Orleans and Hahnville, where he represents individuals and small businesses, and handles personal injury matters and selected public interest litigation with issues he deems important.
The Honorable M. Lauren Lemmon, who graduated from Loyola in 1990, is currently a 29th Judicial District Court Judge in St. Charles Parish, Louisiana. She has a son and daughter in college.
Roslyn Lemmon, who graduated from Loyola in 1989, is an attorney at LAMMICO specializing in medical malpractice litigation. She has 3 adopted children who keep her busy and entertained.
James “Jake” Lemmon, a 1997 Loyola graduate who focuses in criminal law, started out his practice as a prosecutor in Orleans Parish for three years, followed by five years in Livingston Parish. He now serves as a public defender in Jefferson Parish and has a private criminal defense practice in surrounding parishes.
Jake’s wife Jenifer, who also graduated from Loyola in 1997, is a staff attorney for the United States 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. Jake and Jenifer became engaged on stage at their law school graduation, and they now have four sons.
While not in the legal field, the two non-lawyer Lemmon children carry on the tradition of serving others. Dr. Carla Lemmon is a child psychologist in private practice in Colorado Springs, Colo. Patrick Lemmon is the founding director of a nonprofit organization in Washington, D.C., which focuses on prevention of violence against women.
About the Author
Celia R. Cangelosi, a sole practitioner in Baton Rouge, served as guest editor on this issue of the Louisiana Bar Journal. She received her JD degree in 1976 from Louisiana State University Paul M. Hebert Law Center. She is currently a member of the Louisiana State Bar Association’s Board of Governors. (918 Government St., Baton Rouge, LA 70802)