Judicial Studies Center receives $5 million grant from The Duke Endowment

June 4, 2013Duke Law News

The Duke Endowment has committed $5 million to the Duke University School of Law to support the operations of its Center for Judicial Studies, President Richard H. Brodhead announced on Wednesday.

“We’re pleased to receive such generous support from The Duke Endowment for this important program,” said Brodhead. “The Center for Judicial Studies is an outstanding example of the way universities can share knowledge and insight to strengthen a key institution of our democracy.” 

The center was established in late 2011 with dual complementary goals: to enhance judicial education and the quality of the judiciary, and to improve the legal system and our understanding of judicial institutions.

Since its inception, the center has begun a master’s degree program in judicial studies and supported scholarly research and conferences on judicial institutions and judicial decision-making. The master’s level program in judicial studies is one of the core components of the center; 17 judges from federal, state and foreign courts who enrolled in the program’s inaugural class are currently engaged in their second summer of study at Duke Law.

“We are grateful for this generous grant from The Duke Endowment that will secure the future of our Center for Judicial Studies,” said Dean David F. Levi, who served as Chief United States District Judge for the Eastern District of California prior to his appointment as dean in 2007. “The center addresses a critical need for better understanding of judicial institutions and judicial decision-making. It permits us to bring together top academics, practitioners, students and judges in this common inquiry.”

Levi said it is “particularly fitting that such a center should be located at Duke because our faculty has so many of the leading scholars in the study of the judiciary. This grant will help us achieve our core missions of preparing students for responsible and productive lives in the legal profession, and improving the law and legal institutions through research and scholarship.”

The gift, which will fund an endowment to support the center’s operations, advances the Law School’s efforts to raise $85 million as part of the $3.25 billion Duke Forward fundraising campaign. The campaign supports priorities across Duke's 10 schools, Duke Medicine and a range of university programs.

The judicial studies center, which is led by professors Jack Knight and Mitu Gulati and director John Rabiej, engages members of the judiciary in several different capacities: as students, researchers and reformers. 

For instance, student-judges in the Master of Laws in Judicial Studies program are examining the history, institutions and processes that have shaped the institution of the judiciary and continue to affect judicial decision-making. 

Through a seminar for Duke JD students, the center will provide research assistance to student-judges with their theses, many of which are expected to be published. 

The center will also support graduate fellows and visiting scholars who undertake original research projects with special relevance to the judiciary, and will host workshops and a series of thematic conferences focused on major research questions.

Additionally, through such programs as “The Duke Conference:  Bench-Bar-Academy Distinguished Lawyers’ Series,” the center will bring together members of the judiciary with scholars and leading practitioners to tackle specific legal and law reform issues.

“The challenging conditions in which our judges perform their duties have put a premium on collaboration among members of the bench, bar and academy,” said Levi, citing such factors as state and federal budget cuts, increasing case loads, the costs of litigation, partisanship, and technological change. 

“Ultimately, our aim is to protect and improve our judicial institutions through strengthening the education of individual judges and by qualitatively improving collective knowledge about judicial decision-making and judicial institutions,” he said.  “Judges participating as students will become more capable; JD students as research assistants will become more knowledgeable about judicial institutions, processes and law reform; research into judicial studies by scholars will be of higher quality, greater relevance and accuracy; and the legal profession will be better coordinated in its efforts to improve the law. This long-term funding from The Duke Endowment will help us realize these important results.”

“The Duke Endowment is proud to support this impressive program and the opportunities it presents for judges, researchers and scholars,” said Minor Shaw, chair of the Endowment’s board.

Established in 1924 by industrialist and philanthropist James B. Duke, The Duke Endowment in Charlotte, N.C., is one of the largest private foundations in the Southeast. Through its four program areas -- child care, health care, higher education and rural churches -- it distributes grants to organizations across North Carolina and South Carolina. The Endowment’s founder is the same Duke behind Duke University and Duke Energy, but they are all separate organizations.

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