R. Ashby Pate rejoined the law firm of Lightfoot Franklin & White LLC in 2016 after serving for years as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of Palau, an island nation located in the western Pacific Ocean. In his new Of Counsel role at Lightfoot, Pate focuses on international disputes, appellate practice, white collar crime, medical device litigation, class actions and media and communications law. Prior to his judicial appointment, while practicing at Lightfoot Franklin & White, Pate focused on general commercial litigation and international law and was voted a 2013 Top International Law Attorney by Birmingham Magazine’s Peer Reviewed Survey of over 2,000 Alabama Lawyers.
While on the Republic of Palau’s highest court, Pate presided over several hundred civil and criminal cases as a trial judge and served as a panelist on over 40 civil and criminal appeals. Pate also helped establish Palau’s first jury trial system in 2009, contributing to its enabling legislation and authoring Palau’s first jury trial rules and juror handbook. As part of his continuing efforts to advance jury trials in Palau, in 2015, Pate spearheaded the American College of Trial Lawyers’ 2015 Advanced Trial Advocacy Symposium in Palau, in which thirteen Fellows from the prestigious American College presented a three-day workshop for lawyers from Palau and Micronesia, including Guam, CNMI, and the Federated States of Micronesia. The Immediate Past President of the College, Francis M. Wikstrom, called the Symposium “one of the great accomplishments of the College.” As a Supreme Court Justice in the Asia-Pacific region, Pate also participated in the Pacific Judicial Council Biennial Conference, along with federal, state, territorial and national judges from the U.S. Ninth Circuit, Guam, CNMI, Federated States of Micronesia, Malaysia, and Palau—and, along with judges from Indonesia, Afghanistan, Bhutan, Fiji, Timor-Leste, France, Hong Kong, and mainland China, he represented the Republic of Palau’s Judiciary at the UNCITRAL Asia Pacific Judicial Summit, in Hong Kong, China, hosted by the Hong Kong Department of Justice and the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre. Notably, in 2014, Pate’s order granting a writ of habeas corpus in In Re Angelino, which condemned the solitary confinement conditions in Palau’s only correctional facility, garnered attention in the Asia-Pacific region and among noted international human rights advocates as an “impressive national court application of international human rights norms.” He also presided over the widely publicized criminal prosecution of sitting Vice President Antonio Bells, as well as numerous cases involving the application of traditional Palauan law. Appointed to the Court at the age of 34 by President Johnson Toribiong, Pate was the youngest justice in the island nation’s history.
After law school, Pate served as a Law Clerk to the Honorable U. W. Clemon of the United States District Court, Northern District of Alabama, a prominent civil rights leader and Alabama’s first African-American federal judge. In 2009, Pate served as Senior Court Counsel to the Honorable Chief Justice Arthur Ngiraklsong of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Palau, where he served as a judicial clerk and legal counsel for the Supreme Court.
Pate was elected to the American Law Institute in 2014, where he now actively contributes to projects including The Restatement (Fourth) Foreign Relations Law of the United States, The Restatement (Third) The U.S. Law of International Commercial Arbitration, and The Restatement (Third) Torts: Liability for Economic Harm.
He is admitted to practice law in all state and federal courts in Alabama and is a member of the International Bar Association, the American Judges Association, the Birmingham Bar Association, and the American Bar Association.
Pate is married to Christine Caiola of Birmingham, Alabama. The couple now have two young girls. Prior to law school, Pate toured regionally in the Southeastern United States in two different bands, releasing two albums of original music. Pate is also the author of a children’s book about Palau, titled “Sweet Dreams Palau,” published by the Etpison Museum.