50 for 50 Spotlight: The Honorable Eileen C. Moore (JD ’78)

“Moore understood that her role in the court system put her in a unique position to aid veterans, and 10 years ago, she launched a statewide military and veterans committee within the courts.”

Associate Justice Eileen C. Moore received her juris doctor from Pepperdine University School of Law in 1978. The school, she says, continued where her Catholic school education left off–instilling a sense of responsibility to the human condition. In May 2004, she graduated from the University of Virginia with a Master of Laws in Judicial Process. Justice Moore was admitted to the California State Bar in 1978 and to the United States District Court, Central District of California, in 1984. 

Prior to law school, Moore practiced as a registered nurse from 1965–72, including service as a combat nurse in Vietnam. After serving in Vietnam, she stepped right into the Women’s Liberation Movement back at home. Once she realized the power of an education, and as she describes “that likes of me – a nobody, the daughter or a high school drop-out, a girl – could actually study at a university,” she grabbed for that brass ring and never looked back. Moore is a member of Vietnam Veterans of America and serving veterans through legal aid has grown into a cause close to Moore’s heart.

As Veterans Day approaches, we spoke with Justice Moore on the ways in which the legal community, particularly service-minded Pepperdine alumni, can play a role for veterans that face an era 0f mental crisis.

Moore explains, “According to the American Bar Association, the reason so many veterans are homeless usually involves legal problems of one kind or another. Those problems might be as basic as the loss of a driver’s license or overdue civil fines that disqualify veterans from participating in government and private-sector programs that provide services. In fact, the VA assesses that half of the top 10 needs that homeless veterans face require legal assistance. And when a veteran does not qualify for VA benefits due to a less than honorable discharge, legal assistance is needed to apply for a discharge upgrade. According to the ABA, a veteran’s access to a lawyer can mean the difference between living under a roof or under a bridge.”

The United States, she says, now has over 1.22 million veterans living in poverty, and approximately 40,000 of those people are homeless on any given night. Veterans make up nine percent of the country’s homeless population. California has the greatest number of veterans in the nation in addition to the highest homeless veteran population, with 29 percent of the United States’ total homeless veterans. Nearly half of homeless veterans served during the Vietnam era.

She continues, “According to a book published by the Surgeon General [War Psychiatry], community support and effective integration of soldiers returning home from battle appear to have the greatest influence on the development of long-term psychiatric problems. We left Vietnam over 40 years ago. Yet nearly half of today’s homeless veterans are from the Vietnam era. When Vietnam soldiers came home, there were no parades. Many changed out of their uniforms before going into public to avoid confrontations. Some Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion chapters refused to admit anyone who served in Vietnam. There’s a lot we have learned from what we did after Vietnam. Pepperdine and its graduates are part of the community aiding homeless veterans.”

In an article published last November, The Daily Journal described how Moore understood that her role in the court system put her in a unique position to aid veterans, and 10 years ago, she launched a statewide military and veterans committee within the courts. In 2008, after witnessing a need to provide support for soldiers returning from Iraq, Moore helped launch what is known today as the Veterans and Military Families Subcommittee for the Judicial Council, and she has served as the organization’s chair ever since.

Because a great deal of the problems leading to homelessness revolve around legal issues, and those legal issues can require the time and dedication of many lawyers, there is still much more that needs to happen. More than ever, volunteer lawyers are needed to help veterans, and there is a lot of room there for Pepperdine and its alumni to contribute.

As the law school celebrates fifty years of its history and looks to a new chapter, Moore says that the school could commit to instilling a sense of community involvement in searching for solutions in all of its students.

Justice Moore concludes, “Pepperdine has been with me every step of my legal path. I suspect graduates of most, if not all, other law schools have not enjoyed that same support and guidance. I am very thankful to Pepperdine for the assistance, advice and counsel it has given me.”

The administration, faculty, and students at Pepperdine Caruso Law would like to extend a heartfelt “thank you” for the service of our veterans to our country. We greatly appreciate you and your family’s sacrifice while serving.

As a part of the Experiential Learning Program at Caruso Law, students enrolled in practicum courses may choose to work in the Ventura County Public Defender’s Office to serve veterans in the Collaborative Courts within the Ventura County Superior Court, including the Veterans Treatment Court, Homeless Court, Mental Health Court, Stand Down Court, and others.

For more information on the law school’s Yellow Ribbon Program and Post-9/11 G.I. Bill, visit here.