Saint Mary's College welcomes U.S. District Judge Troy Nunley, an SMC Class of '86 alumnus, as speaker for the 2013 undergraduate commencement ceremony.

Troy Nunley, Prudent Jurist

Click here to read Troy Nunley's Commencement Address

Troy Nunley


After serving as a Sacramento Superior Court Judge, Troy Nunley was nominated by President Barack Obama as a U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of California in June 2012. Obama said he was confident that Nunley would serve the American people “with integrity and a steadfast commitment to justice." 

Nunley's nomination was unanimously approved by the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee and confirmed by the Senate this year. The Eastern District includes 34 counties in eastern and central California stretching from Los Angeles County's northern edge to the Oregon border.

A native son of the Bay Area, Nunley's rise to the bench is an inspirational story. He and his three siblings were raised by a single mother in a housing project in Hunter's Point. One of San Francisco's poorest neighborhoods, it was also marked by street violence during his youth. Gennie Nunley-Thompson, his mother, recently told the San Francisco Chronicle that she used to wake Troy from his bed and instruct him to move to the floor to avoid stray bullets from gunfire outside their home.

While other challenging urban street encounters would follow, Nunley and his siblings persevered, attending Catholic high school and going on to college. Nunley received a Christian Brothers education, first attending San Francisco’s Sacred Heart High School and later Saint Mary's.

Nunley's interest in the judicial system first took root during visits to San Francisco's courts, where his mother worked as a probation officer and where he encountered the world of lawyers, magistrates and jurists. However, he says his preparation for the courtroom began in Collegiate Seminar, Saint Mary's hallmark academic program, where students and faculty explore and discuss the writings of some of the world’s greatest thinkers.

“Having a grounding in the Socratic method definitely helped in terms of following the thread of arguments and being able to synthesize information and deliberate on it,” said Nunley.

Beyond the academic rigor expected of Saint Mary’s students, Nunley said that the College’s commitment to service for the common good made a profound impact on him. And, he hopes to express the importance of service in his commencement address. “I hope to convey to the students the profound belief that a Saint Mary's education in the Lasallian tradition has prepared them to find their life's work and to function as positive, productive members of society.”

He added, “I also hope to encourage the students to use the example of the Christian Brothers and give something back to the community. In conveying both this belief and encouragement, I hope to use my life as a testament to how a Saint Mary's education can impact the community.”

"Troy Nunley’s journey and success illustrates what Saint Mary’s graduates can achieve professionally and how their contributions can improve society overall. I look forward to his wise advice to our students and their families," said Brother President Ronald Gallagher. "President Obama’s selection of Judge Nunley for the federal bench is a recognition of his excellence in the courtroom and his unwavering commitment to social justice, which are principles that are at the core of the College’s values."

Nunley received his undergraduate degree from Saint Mary’s in 1986 and his Juris Doctor degree from the University of California Hastings College of the Law in 1990. His stellar legal career includes operating his own law practice as a sole practitioner, serving as a deputy district attorney in Alameda and Sacramento counties, and as deputy attorney general in the California Department of Justice. Governor Gray Davis appointed Nunley to the Sacramento Superior Court in 2002.

Nunley resides in Sacramento with his wife, a Saint Mary’s alumna, Susan Lawrence '88. The two met and began dating while attending the College. Marriage eventually followed and now the couple has four children.

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