I was married, had a son and was broke when I started Law School in Bloomington, Indiana in the summer of 1968. Although I was working full-time on a night stock crew at a Kroger’s grocery store and was receiving the G.I. bill for my Air Force service, our family just made it. My mission was to get out of school as quickly as possible. I.U. allowed 44 of us new law students to enroll on a new 27-month plan instead of the normal three years with three summers off. Only 6 of us completed the program where we actually started in June 1968 and took the Bar Exam in the summer of 1970 before we graduated in August.
What this did for my family and me was to allow me to become a lawyer when that would not have been possible had we had to remain in Law School another year. My G.I. Bill benefits were used up by the spring 1970 semester and we could not survive on my Kroger pay.
Now I will leave it up to my past clients and those who have appeared in front of me as judge to determine if I.U. made an error in judgment in allowing me to cram three years of education into two. But as for me it was a necessity. However, it also showed me how the summertime, when most Law Schools are not in session, could be put to use.
Another long-term association I have had as judge is with the National Judicial College in Reno, Nevada. While NJC does conduct summer continuing education sessions for judges from every state and many foreign countries, these courses, due to the demands of working judges’ schedules, usually are a maximum of two weeks. In two weeks judges can have existing skills more finely honed. However, the in-depth education and training one should experience before being charged with the thousands of critical judging decisions affecting our citizens requires a greatly expanded curriculum and much more time. Unfortunately, in America today all judges get their judicial education after they become judges. Such a system of on-the-job training might work well for workers on a night stock crew, but it is anathema to receiving equal justice from new judges.
In some countries, the pool of potential judges is formed in Law Schools where those who wish to someday be a judge must complete a rigorous and specially designed regimen. That is in contrast to America where if one wishes to be a judge all that is required is that he or she graduate from a law school. And in Law School not even the law professors are likely to have a clue about what a judge’s role really entails.
What I suggest is a system of developing a pool of attorneys who have a Law School specialty of Judging much as in medicine where one must be trained as a neurologist before they operate on someone’s brain. Naturally the students who want to later be considered for election or appointment as judges should have at least all the education and training of any attorney who will appear in front of the judge, so the judicial specialty must call for additional Law School time just as a medical student who wants to specialize needs extra education and time. I suggest the three summers of a Law School education are a natural fit for a Judicial Specialty. I will more fully address these issues in future columns. Try to curb your excitement.