PUBLISHED:July 09, 2012

From the Dean

Dean David Levi

Every now and then we get the chance to do something in our jobs that is not only good for the institution but that we really care about on a personal level. As a former judge and now dean, bringing this program to life has been that for me. I could not be more grateful to the many alumni, faculty, and friends who made it possible. The day when these 18 judges hold Duke Law degrees in their hands will be a wonderful day for them, and for Duke Law School.

Dear Friends,

This summer we welcomed our first class of judges to our Master of Laws in Judicial Studies program. For four weeks, 18 federal, state, and international judges were eager and hardworking students at our school. I knew that they would be an amazing group; their applications had revealed their passion for their work, for improving their understanding of the judicial function, and for law reform. But I could not have predicted how much joy it would bring to all of us to have them in the building, toiling away happily in fields both familiar and unfamiliar.

Their days were filled with stimulating instruction from some of our most skilled and interesting scholars and teachers: Curt Bradley and Larry Helfer on International Law in U.S. Courts; Michael Bradley on Forensic Finance; John de Figueiredo on Analytic Methods; Mitu Gulati and Jack Knight on Study of the Judiciary; Maggie Lemos and Ernie Young on Federalism; Francis McGovern and Judge Lee Rosenthal on Issues Facing the Judiciary; Jeff Powell on Judicial History; Neil Siegel and Justice Samuel Alito on Constitutional and Statutory Interpretation. I recall a particular Friday when the day began with a unit on judi­cial biography with Linda Greenhouse, the Pulitzer Prize-winning former New York Times Supreme Court reporter, and John Jeffries, the distinguished former dean of the University of Virginia Law School. Following this stimulating class, the judges discussed Judge Richard Posner’s latest book on the judiciary with Judge Posner himself, who appeared by video link. Later, Justice Alito arrived to begin his class on interpreting the Constitution. It was an incredible day.

In the late afternoons and evenings and on the weekends, the judges pre­pared for class and also attended to chambers work. They worked hard. One of them told me that he expected no less from Duke — a challenging experience that would leave its mark and require extraordinary effort. Now the judges have returned to their regular jobs, yet still with papers to write and problem sets to complete. They will be back next summer for another set of courses and then will complete a master’s thesis on a topic of their choosing.

If the judicial master’s program continues to go well, we will have created something special for our profession and the Law School. It is not easy to be a judge in the current climate. The conditions of employment are worsening at the same time that the demands of the job are increasing. Our judges need all the help we can give them in handling their cases wisely and administering complex systems of dispute resolution. A well-educated judiciary, with access to the very best teaching and scholarship that the academy can offer, is critical to the success of our state and federal judicial systems, which is so central to the success of our democracy. On the other side of the equation, Duke Law School gains 18 new alumni who are judges around the country and the world, and who are able to help guide our school and our students. Our faculty gains the rare opportunity of testing their ideas on active, experienced judicial offi­cers who, in turn, can point us in new directions and provide valuable feedback.

I am grateful to our faculty for their dedicated teaching during these four weeks. Jack Knight and Mitu Gulati provided leadership and vision for the cur­riculum. Our new director of the Judicial Center, John Rabiej, provided the all-important administrative direction with critical early help from Assistant Dean Tia Barnes ’03.

We can do much more to help unify the academy and the judiciary. The master’s program is just one of several programs, conferences, projects, and research that the Center for Judicial Studies may undertake to the benefit of the Law School and the judiciary. It will be exciting to watch how the center devel­ops in the years ahead.

Every now and then we get the chance to do something in our jobs that is not only good for the institution but that we really care about on a personal level. As a former judge and now dean, bringing this program to life has been that for me. I could not be more grateful to the many alumni, faculty, and friends who made it possible. The day when these 18 judges hold Duke Law degrees in their hands will be a wonderful day for them, and for Duke Law School.

Best wishes for a relaxing summer.

Sincerely,

David F. Levi
Dean and Professor of Law

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