2015 Merit Award Winner
2015 Merit Award Winner

Bataillon 2015 Alumni Merit Award Recipient

Senior U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Bataillon, BA’71, JD’74, was honored with the School of Law’s Alumni Merit Award during Homecoming activities in September. The annual award recognizes outstanding alumni for their distinguished service to the community and the University and for exemplifying Creighton’s credo of being men and women for others.

Bataillon has served as a U.S. District Court judge for the District of Nebraska since 1997. He was nominated for the post by President Bill Clinton, and, after confirmation by the Senate, took his oath of office in October 1997. He would serve as chief judge of the district court from 2004 to 2011. 

In 2013, he announced his plan to assume senior status in October 2014. He has continued a full caseload during the search for his replacement. (There is a good chance his successor will be another Creighton law alumnus. In June, President Barack Obama announced his nomination of Omaha attorney Robert Rossiter Jr., JD’81; Rossiter’s Senate hearing is expected this fall with confirmation in 2016.) 

Bataillon, who earned both his undergraduate and law degrees from Creighton, credits the University’s Jesuit mission and values with teaching him to think independently. 

“Many faculty members, staff, priests and peers at Creighton have impacted my life,” Bataillon says. “Cardinal Francis George added depth to my thinking and made students reflect on who they were and why they were.” 

The late Cardinal George, who received an honorary degree from Creighton in 2001, was a faculty member and chair in Creighton’s Department of Philosophy from 1969 to 1973.

“My broad experiences as an undergraduate also helped prepare me for law school,” Bataillon says.

Majoring in political science and minoring in philosophy, Bataillon also took several business courses. He participated in JayTalkers, the University’s forensics team, and for six years worked in sports information and then as an equipment manager in athletics. 

“These experiences made clear to me the importance of communication and partnerships,” Bataillon says. “They gave me an appreciation for faculty and alumni support of students.”

Bataillon found Creighton’s faculty, staff and administrators open and available to students, willing to talk about everything from academics to careers to future opportunities. Bataillon credits the late Dan Offenburger, BS’58, MSEdu’63, former athletic director, for teaching him invaluable lessons about managing staff, budgets and the press.

Bataillon also recalls law professor Ron Volkmer as someone who had high expectations and looked out for his students. “It is almost impossible to know how many students were inspired and influenced by faculty such as Volkmer,” Bataillon says. 

While in law school, Bataillon stayed active in the community by continuing to participate in student government and programs such as the NCAA Summer Youth Sports Camp. He credits Creighton with instilling in students the desire to participate in the public arena.

Called the voice of common sense on the district court bench, Bataillon has been a key figure in building treatment and job programs for people trying to right and rebuild their lives after convictions. For Bataillon, caring for those less fortunate is part of the Jesuit mission that started with his time in the Douglas County Public Defender’s Office and has been with him throughout his career. 

Bataillon mentors lawyers and law students on how to practice law at the highest levels. He was a judicial member of the Robert M. Spire Inn of Court from 1999 to 2005; the group met monthly with third-year Creighton law students to give them practical training in law practice and ethics. He also supervises interns, judges competitions and guest-lectures at the School of Law. 

Judge Bataillon has been active on numerous boards and committees including the School of Law Alumni Advisory Board; Creighton Law Advisory Board; and the Nebraska Bar Association House of Delegates, to which he has been elected to serve as president in 2017.