‘Because Moritz chose me, I felt like I had to give back to Moritz in some way,’ alumna says
By: Madeleine Thomas
If Cheyenne N. Chambers ’14 hadn’t been selected as the ninth U.S. Supreme Court Justice for a First Amendment moot court case in her high school AP Government class, she probably would have become a history professor. As she prepared for oral arguments and started peppering her fellow classmates with questions, she became enamored with the history of her case and her role as “Justice Chambers.” Now an attorney with Tin Fulton Walker & Owen in Charlotte, North Carolina, Chambers still aspires to become a federal appellate judge.
“I fell in love with the study of law in high school, and I haven’t looked back since,” Chambers said. “It’s almost like when a kid who wants to be a professional athlete meets her favorite athlete in person, and that athlete tells her that she can do it, too. You just don’t let that feeling go.”
Chambers’ interest in the federal judiciary is apparent from her resume. After law school, she clerked for the Honorable Paul J. Watford of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. As a student, she served as an extern to the Honorable Jeffrey S. Sutton of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, the Honorable Solomon Oliver, Jr. of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, and the Honorable Norah McCann King of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio.
Chambers applies everything she learned from her judicial clerkship and externships to her current practice, which focuses on trial and appellate litigation in the areas of civil rights, constitutional law, and employment law. Earlier this year, she was named a 2018 North Carolina Rising Star in Civil Rights Law by Super Lawyers, one of several career milestones she holds dear. Chambers also argued a case before the Supreme Court of North Carolina in October 2017. This month, the Court ruled unanimously in her client’s favor.
“I am so honored to have argued this case before the Court, and even more honored that my colleagues trusted me with this incredible opportunity,” Chambers said.
But for each success, she admits to having at least three times as many failures.
“One thing I talk about with Moritz students all the time is the importance of perseverance,” she said. “Sometimes you’re going to set a goal, and you’re not going to accomplish it. But at the end of the day, what really matters is learning how to deal with failure. You have to learn how to not beat yourself up so much that you decide to just give up. More times than not, all you need is one ‘yes.’”
Chambers is reminded of this principle daily, thanks to a letter that she received from U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor during her senior year of college at Case Western Reserve University. The letter reads, in part, “The most important piece of advice I ever received was being told that the character of a person was not measured by how many times he or she was knocked down, but by the number of times he or she got up.”
Chambers still keeps in close touch with many of her former professors at Moritz, who have since become treasured mentors. Recognizing the importance of mentorship and its role in her own success as an attorney, she founded the Chambers Scholarship in 2015 to help guide incoming Black Law Student Association (BLSA) members interested in working for the federal government or in careers specializing in constitutional law, education law, or civil rights litigation. As the community of scholarship recipients grows each year, Chambers hopes to create a tight-knit group of future leaders and role models who can rely on each other for support and inspiration.
“To be honest, I was rejected from almost every law school I applied to. Because Moritz chose me, I felt like I had to give back to Moritz in some way,” she said. “So with the scholarship, it’s almost like creating a professional family where they can all lean on each other.”
As a law student, Chambers served as BLSA’s Parliamentarian and as Executive Editor of the Ohio State Law Journal (OSLJ). She still views her experience on OSLJ as a pivotal moment in her career.
“I recommend that every law student apply for a journal, no matter which one it is. When I joined OSLJ, so many doors opened for me. In fact, my role on OSLJ helped me secure my clerkship with Judge Watford.”
In addition to establishing a scholarship, Chambers also serves as Co-Chair of the American Bar Association’s Appellate Practice Subcommittee on Young Lawyers, Membership, and Diversity. She hopes to expose young attorneys, particularly attorneys of color, to the practice of appellate litigation and to teach the next generation of legal professionals that their roles as attorneys can be much greater than the number of cases they handle.
“I think attorneys have an opportunity to influence change in many ways. That’s the amazing thing about a law degree. There’s so much versatility behind it,” Chambers said. “I think sometimes students go to law school thinking, ‘I’m going to get this degree and then I’m going to work for a big firm and that’s it, that’s what I’m supposed to do.’ But you could get into politics, you could do community service, you could start a nonprofit. You can do so much.”