Kathryn Kimball Mizelle
Currently serving as a Law Clerk to Justice Clarence Thomas, Supreme Court of the U.S.
On a Monday evening in May of 2005, Lakeland Christian valedictorian Kathryn Kimball stood on the Branscomb Auditorium stage and challenged her fellow graduates to allow the Lord to lead them into the future. Armed with an LCS education and a long list of awards and accomplishments, Kathryn expected her future to involve a career in the medical field. But taking her own advice over the next several years, Kathryn watched as God led her down a path very different from what she had planned for herself.
High School Days
To say that Kathryn was a good student at LCS would be an understatement. Her high school resume includes class valedictorian, Army Reserve National Scholar/Athlete Award, Herff Jones Principal’s Leadership Award, Silver Garland nominee for citizenship and countless subject area awards. She even earned a perfect score on the English portion of the ACT.
On top of her academic achievements, Kathryn was involved with student government and served as class president during her junior and senior years. She competed on the soccer, volleyball, cross country and track teams, and she also took piano lessons for nine years.
Of all Kathryn’s accomplishments, one moment stands out as of particular significance: “One of my fondest memories from Lakeland Christian was Mr. Musick’s nomination of me for Nerds-R-Us; he put “Karl Kimball” on the ballot. You have to be male to be in [the club], so to this day I think that I’m the only pseudo-female in Nerds-R-Us. That was such an unexpected honor. I was thrilled!”
After graduating from LCS, Kathryn went on to Covenant College in Lookout Mountain, Georgia. She started out as a biology major but, like many students, changed her major a couple of times before settling on a degree in economics with a minor in philosophy.
“I think it was a great balance because philosophy taught me how to think, and economics taught me how the world actually works. It allowed me to see how the two disciplines intersect: limited resources drive society’s decisions, but ideas influence a culture’s priorities which inform those decisions,” Kathryn said.
An internship with Shared Hope International, a nonprofit that worked against sex trafficking, confirmed that law school was the next step for Kathryn once she finished her economics degree. “The importance of what they did struck me, and most of the people in the field had law degrees. It seemed a necessary degree to help fight these social injustices.”
Kathryn graduated from Covenant in the spring of 2009 and started her law degree at the University of Florida that fall.
“It [law school] was the most intense academic environment I’d been in. I knew going in that it was going to be that way, but I don’t think I quite comprehended how much more consuming it was going to be than an undergraduate program. I really wanted to do my best there. I knew that’s where the Lord wanted me to be and I committed myself to it, giving 100 percent for three years. I learned how to work longer and harder.”
“I used to have everything mapped out and know exactly what I was going to do, and I’m starting to learn that opportunities arise that are better than what I’ve planned.”
Three years of diligence paid off for Kathryn when she graduated at the very top of her class. She also “booked” eight courses (the LCS equivalent of going to the “fruit room”) for the highest grade earned in a course.
“I went in thinking, ‘I have no idea how I am going to compare to the other students because I’m coming from a small school,’” Kathryn said. “But I gave everything I could to studying and learning the material, and then prayed about leaving the results up to the Lord. They tell you after your first year your class rank. I was shocked to learn where I stood. After I knew, it reinforced my desire to continue to strive for excellence.”
Clerking for the federal District Court
Kathryn is starting her legal career as a clerk at the federal district court level for a judge in Tampa. The district court is the trial court level where people file complaints and make motions. She spends her days researching and writing for the judge.
After her time at the district level, Kathryn will transition to another clerkship in Birmingham.
“At my current clerkship, I handle cases where they first enter the judicial system — the attorneys file complaints, make motions and eventually go to trial. It’s the first round of adjudication,” Kathryn said. “Then if one of the parties wants to appeal the decision from the district court, it files a brief with the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, and the other side will get to respond. That is the court where I will be clerking in Birmingham next year. At the appellate level, we will read the briefs from the parties based on what happened at the district court level where I’m clerking right now and then decide whether the district court decision should be affirmed or reversed.”
Her Future in the Law Profession
As her career in law moves forward, Kathryn is open to different possibilities.
“I used to have everything mapped out and know exactly what I was going to do, and I’m starting to learn that opportunities arise that are better than what I’ve planned,” Kathryn said.
“When I started, I was thinking that I would like to work for International Justice Mission because of my externship with Shared Hope … something that sounds very noble. And I still think it is very important work, and I would be thrilled if that’s where my career led. As I’ve experienced new legal arenas through working as a summer associate in a law firm and as an intern in a prosecutor’s office, I’ve realized there are many ways that you can seek justice in this world without having that label.”
She does know, however, that she would like to teach as a law school professor. “I’ve always enjoyed the academic setting, and I love helping students also experience that joy. Even if just as an adjunct, that’s something I would be interested in doing some day.”
The LCS Foundation
When it comes to her academic preparation, Kathryn is thankful for the well-rounded education she received during her years at LCS. When she started at Covenant as a biology major, the science classes she had taken with Mr. Mike Musick and Mr. Geoff Stabler prepared her for the rigors of college biology and chemistry courses. The math background she received from Mr. Steve Livesay gave her the necessary tools she needed to succeed in all of the heavily math-based classes required as an economics major. She credits Mrs. Alexis Livesay and Mrs. Judy Oncu for preparing her to write at the college level, especially in the law school arena where she was required to analyze, articulate, and defend her positions in exams and articles.
LCS also prepared her for life outside of the classroom. “LCS gave me a joy for learning, but I also think it emphasized the holistic student, being involved in sports, taking on leadership roles and seeking the betterment of the community in which you’ve been placed,” Kathryn said.
“Attending Lakeland Christian for 13 years also instilled in me the importance and the privilege it is to continue to learn and not to take those opportunities for granted. This was done in a very scripturally-based context where I was encouraged to think about how my faith informs what I am doing in the world. Faith and living are not two separate parts of my life.”
“I think of my work, whether academic or now as a clerk, as work that I’m doing unto the Lord, and I want to do my best for Him. I continue to strive to serve Him and I think that means giving your absolute best to whatever you’re doing and serving with a focus not to glorify yourself but to glorify Christ. LCS gave me that foundation as a child and as a teenager, and I believe I was grounded with that vision for the rest of my life.”
Advice for Current Students
The road from Lakeland Christian through law school and now to her budding career as a lawyer has not always been an easy one. In addition to the academic pressures Kathryn has faced, her path has involved leaving familiar communities to start over in new places. She offers several important pieces of advice to current Lakeland Christian students as they prepare for the future.
First, realize that it will be an adjustment to leave LCS. “You might be lonely,” she said. “I think everyone experiences loneliness when you first go to college or move into a new situation. It’s not going to last forever; it’s just a temporary situation.”
Second, know what you believe and rely on the truths that you know to be solid. “When you do come up against doubts or are challenged, know that there’s
a firm foundation for what you believe and that your faith is grounded in Christ and not on the most recent thing you’ve learned. It [your faith] shouldn’t be swayed by circumstances; it must be rooted in Scripture. My encouragement is to get involved with like-minded people at whatever school or environment you’re in. It’s helpful to be in a community that encourages you.”
Finally, make sure that you are following your own path and not one set for you by others. Kathryn said, “Start to develop now your own personal goals. What do you want to accomplish? What do you feel you’re being called to do? Pray about it and seek out your gifts. Don’t be satisfied with a 90 if you know your best could have been a 100. I think that’s very important … to start thinking critically now about what gifts you have and how you’re going to use them and let that calling be yours and not just what your parents’ expectations are.”
News In August of 2020 on Kathryn:
Congratulations to Nominated Alum, Kathryn Kimball Mizelle! President Donald J. Trump Announced his Judicial Nominees on August 12, 2020, which included Mizelle for a Judge position on the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida. Click here for the article.