Acting Greatly: Wake Forest Law Professor Honored with Kirk Warner Award

On May 30, Ellie Morales (JD ’10), Assistant Professor and Director of the Veterans Legal Clinic at Wake Forest Law, received the Kirk Warner Award for Distinguished Service to the Military and Veterans. The North Carolina Bar Association’s (NCBA) Military and Veterans Law Section recognized Professor Morales with the award for dedicating her time in service to the United States and to military members and veterans.

“I am thankful to my Wake Law family, DOJ family, and Army family, and of course, my wonderful husband and children,” said Professor Morales as she accepted the award.

The Kirk Warner Award is named in recognition of Colonel Kirk Warner for his continued history of providing support and care to active and retired military personnel. Colonel Warner was present at the event and spoke about the importance of “acting greatly.” “That’s how we move forward,” he said.

Professor Morales joined the Army Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps in 2010, upon graduation from Wake Forest School of Law. During her time on active duty, she served as a legal assistance attorney, criminal prosecutor, and administrative law attorney. Professor Morales also deployed to Kabul, Afghanistan, where she served as an operational law attorney in support of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and US forces.

In 2015, Professor Morales transitioned to the Army Reserves where she currently serves as an Army JAG in the rank of Major.

In addition to the Kirk Warner Award, Professor Morales is a recipient of the General Douglas MacArthur Leadership Award, an honor that is presented to fewer than 30 Army junior officers each year, the Bronze Star Medal, and the Department of Justice Director’s Award for Superior Performance as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Criminal Division in 2019.

Since joining Wake Forest Law as a professor and the director of the Veterans Legal Clinic, Professor Morales has helped change the outcomes of a number of cases for military personnel and veterans, including a recent case in which Korean War veteran James Brown was able to have his military records corrected. Mr. Brown was on watch with an inexperienced Korean soldier who did not speak English. Instead of switching positions so Mr. Brown could sleep, the Korean soldier would sleep. Fearing danger, Mr. Brown repeatedly requested a new bunkmate from his superior officer but was met with resistance, ultimately resulting in a dishonorable discharge. To learn more about Mr. Brown’s story and how the Veterans Legal Clinic worked to correct his military record, watch this video.

The award was presented by Chris Stevens, chair of the Military and Veterans Law Section of the NCBA, and was met with a standing ovation.

“Ellie Morales’s work as the director of the Veterans Legal Clinic has been instrumental in getting justice for veterans,” said Interim Dean Nell J. Newton. “We are very proud of her work on behalf of veterans and her inspirational teaching of the students in the clinic.” The Veterans Legal Clinic, which trains law students on legal theory and practice by assisting low-income former service members in need of representation and advocacy to correct injustices in their military records, serves 15-20 veterans each academic year.

To learn more about Professor Morales and Mr. Brown’s case, read The Redemption of Private Brown: Two converging paths united in a singular mission for justice.