Judge Orelia E. Merchant - Ortique Lecture Speaker
Campus News

Dillard Alum Class of 1992 Judge Orelia E. Merchant to Serve as Ortique Lecture Speaker

NEW ORLEANS —Judge Orelia E. Merchant ’92 will serve as the speaker for the annual Justice Revius O. Ortique Jr. Lecture on Law and Society.  The event is scheduled for November 13 at 7 p.m. and will take place in the Georges Auditorium, located within Dillard’s Professional Schools and Sciences Building.  Notably, this event is free and open to the public.

Judge Merchant serves as a United States District Court Judge for the Eastern District of New York, and her achievements have garnered significant recognition.  Nominated by President Joseph R. Biden and confirmed by the Senate, Judge Merchant received her judicial commission on May 12, 2023.

A distinguished alumna of Dillard University, Judge Merchant’s educational journey has been marked by excellence.  After completing her undergraduate studies, she pursued a Master of Arts degree in marine science at the College of William & Mary.  Her academic prowess led her to Tulane University Law School, where she earned her Juris Doctorate.

Judge Orelia E. Merchant - Ortique Lecture Speaker

Her exemplary dedication to public service has marked Judge Merchant’s career.  From 2002 to 2019, Judge Merchant served in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York.  Notably, from 2016 to 2019, she held the position of Executive Assistant United States Attorney, directly overseeing the Office’s Civil and Administrative Divisions, providing counsel regarding a variety of significant cases and matters handled by the Office and non-litigation matters impacting the Office’s operation.  During her tenure as an AUSA in the Civil Division, Judge Merchant managed a diverse, demanding, and complex caseload involving asset forfeiture, environmental issues, healthcare fraud, and mortgage fraud.  She also defended employment discrimination, medical malpractice, bankruptcy, immigration, personal injury, prisoner litigation, constitutional challenges, and federal program litigation cases.  Her dedication and expertise were recognized with the Director’s Award for Superior Performance as an AUSA – Civil from the Executive Office for United States Attorneys in 2016.

Before joining the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of New York, Judge Merchant served as an Assistant Regional Counsel for the United States Environmental Protection Agency, Region 5, in Chicago, Illinois.  She also served as a Special Assistant United States Attorney in the Eastern District of Louisiana in both the Civil and Criminal Divisions.

President Rochelle L. Ford, Ph.D., APR, said, “Judge Orelia E. Merchant will undoubtedly provide valuable insights into the field of law and share her remarkable journey from Dillard University to her current position on the United States District Court.” She adds, “We are excited to continue the tradition of highlighting women in law-breaking barriers.” Judge Merchant is the third consecutive woman speaker, following attorney Kim Boyle in 2022 and Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke in 2021.  

About the Justice Revius O. Ortique Jr. Lecture on Law and Society

The Justice Revius O. Ortique Jr. Lecture on Law and Society was launched in 2010 to highlight the work of Ortique, who graduated from Dillard and became the first African-American justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court in 1992. The lecture showcases the University’s long-standing history and commitment to civil rights engagement. 

About Dillard University

Dillard University is a historically Black institution that cultivates leaders who live ethically, think and communicate precisely, and act courageously to make the world a better place. Located in New Orleans, Dillard is a private faith-based liberal arts university that offers 22 majors and two certificate programs. Ranked 5th on 2021 The New York Times Overall Mobility Index and 14th in 2022 by Academic Influence for Best Colleges and Universities by Academic Stewardship, Dillard’s call to future leaders is to Write Your Legacy. Find out more about Louisiana’s oldest HBCU by visiting www.dillard.edu.