We were honored that Chief United States District Judge Lee H. Rosenthal took time out of her busy schedule to speak with our Editor in Chief Drew Padley.
Chief Judge Rosenthal is widely regarded by litigants as one of the best trial judges in the country. After making partner at Baker Botts, she was nominated to the federal bench by George H.W. Bush in 1992. In her time as a judge, she has played an invaluable role in the federal rules-making process, serving as Chair of both the Judicial Conference Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure and the Judicial Conference Advisory Committee on the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
In addition to all of that, she is also an incredibly warm, charismatic, and inspirational person.
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Hello and welcome. This is emphasis, added a podcast by the Houston Laura about legal issues, prominent lawyers and obscure blue book rules. I'm your host, Drew Padley, editor in chief of the Houston Large. Before we begin, I want to take a moment to thank our sponsor. Vincent and Elkins, a global law firm with 13 offices and more than 750 lawyers committed to excellence in serving its sophisticated clients in industries such as energy, finance, technology, real estate, media and beyond. Any hires the best and brightest law students and lawyers valuing diverse perspectives in background. Visit www dot ve law dot com to learn more about Viennese summer associate program and hiring opportunities. Start your success story events in Anoka today on the show we have the chief judge of the Southern District of Texas, Lee Rosenthal, Chief Judge Rosenthal is widely regarded by litigants and other judges as one of the best trial judges in the country. After making partner at Baker Botts, she was nominated to the federal bench by George H. W. Bush in 1992. In her time is judge. She has played an invaluable role in the federal rules making process, serving as chair of both the Judicial Conference Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure and the Judicial Conference Advisory Committee on the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Her career has featured so much more than what can fit in this introduction, so consider this an appetizer. Now let's move to the main course. Chief Judge Rosenthal. Welcome to emphasis, added
a pleasure to be here. Thank you for having me.
Certainly. I can see you're born in Richmond, Indiana. Did you spend your whole childhood there? No. No.
I was there because my birth coincided with my father getting his first teaching job in a tiny little Quaker college, which is still there. And it is, in fact, a college of great distinction, Earlham College. And he and my mother relocated from Manhattan to Richmond, Indiana, which is a door pop, middle tiny speck of a place but with his lovely campus. And it was a college founded by Quakers. They were immediately enthralled by the place because, as thebe parents of an infant, they were struck by the fact that at Quaker meetings the Children would sit in silence, and they did not understand how one could train one child to do this. We left Richmond before I learned I was only there for three years and really have very few memories of the place. But, um, I was lucky in hindsight that I spent my childhood really moving all over the country and had the great privilege of living in a bunch of different places before and during high school, which at the time seemed like some dislocation, particularly when I fetched up in Houston for my last year of high school. But in hindsight was probably the single best thing that could have happened to me.
So what were some of the other places that you lived in?
Los Angeles? California? Uh, Tempe, Arizona. Champagne. Illinois, Baltimore, Maryland, Boston, Massachusetts, New York City. Uh, those were a few of my favorite things places
way we share a similar childhood in that respect. And actually a few you an army brats to was not an Army brat. There's no real cohesive reason for moving. But Los Angeles was also one of my childhood homes in Baltimore as well. So
have you been back to Baltimore, man?
I actually have not. But
it is so cool.
the harbor area, the inner harbor. They have made it come alive. It's really interesting, plus all the historical places. And for Henry and all of the great walking areas, it's the city it waas, which was great with a lot of new stuff and all of the modern challenges that it has faced.
All right, well, it's back to the top of the list, then, I guess, for a domestic travel. Uh, so it sounds like you took a lot from moving around as a child, and that's something that has shaped your outlook to this day.
Yes, I like to pack, and I like to throw things away, among other things.
And so you moved to Houston for your last year of high school and then moved again directly following high school. Is that right?
To go to college and law school, thinking I would never come back to Houston and look what happened.
So I see that you went to the University of Chicago. My wife actually went to graduate school there as well. So you have that in common.
What was tried
to its gold teeth and
she was at the Masters of social work school.
Good for her. It's a great social work school, one of the best in the country. I actually worked there for a year for a wonderful faculty member, Peggy Rosenheim, whose work in Children and the law was path breaking.
That's great. I'll have to look her up. Uh, and so what did you do in your undergraduate career at University of Chicago? What was that degree? Philosophy seems like a lot of philosophy majors to make their way to the law school.
And I went I made my way pretty directly because as a philosophy major, I didn't do logic, which I found understandable, unintelligible. I did philosophy of law, and that made me think that I wanted to be for a while, a very brief while an academic lawyer. Then I got the law school and found that I just really like Law and switch my focus to thinking about practicing and maybe someday, in the very, very far distant future being a judge.
Was there any moment in particular that you remember during law school that was influential or inspiring for your career?
I'll a couple of them. I'm remember one wonderful moment in which a faculty member who is still a close friend came out into thestreet ax of the library, where a number of us were pretending to study and actually whining about, uh, something in law school. There was plenty to wine about. Ah, he came out and said in some indignation, You guys are full of it. We are not here to entertain you. You are not supposed to be having fun. This is supposed to be really hard work, and it Waas. And Chicago is famous for being on the quarter system. Which meant that what other law schools took a full year, two full semesters to do. They added an extra semester on, and it was all the more intense for that. But I just thought it was great. I really and weirdly like law school, and I do remember moments like that. I also remember the great moment in which the same faculty member, when he asked me after my first year what I wanted to do, and I told him I wanted to try a work. He said, Oh, no, no, no, you can't do that. You need to be able to balance the family life on and practice. So I would suggest you do wills in the States contract with one person a year, goes by the same conversation when I'm a to l. So what do you think of doing trial work on? And no, you need an office practice. I would think I would suggest you think about corporate work much more predictable. PS. He was wrong, but it didn't matter. And that that's what you need is a woman going into lost. This is a long time ago. Third year, same conversation would be thinking of doing Try a work. You'll be a great trial, and I do remember that
Wow, it's ah, it's a good reminder of some of the barriers that in opportunities that are given to certain people over others
well, and things were different now and he's different now.
And so after law school, I see that you went to do a clerkship on the fifth Circuit here, get was it here in Houston, it was OK,
which turned out to be just accidental. Ah, but serendipitous because it was during that clerkship year and it was a great clerkship by clerk for the then chief Judge of the fifth Circuit, who was a brilliant guy and a colorful guy, and I love the clerkship. I love the Khalidi ality, and I fell in love with a guy during that clerkship year, met my husband and expected to go back either to Washington, where I had clerked after my second year or two Chicago, which I loved and love. But I met this guy instead. And for Children and the house and a dog later and a lifetime tend your job. I'm still in Texas,
and so that was Mr Rosenthal, I take it still is still is okay, Andi, Was he also a click on the fifth Circuit
he had been had been? He had clerked for Irving Goldberg, who when I was pregnant with my first child and I called to tell him that he was going to be a judicial grandfather, he said, Great. If it's a boy, don't name a turban. He was a wonderful judges. Well, we were very lucky.
That's fantastic. Uh, and you speak a little bit to the value of a judicial clerkship for potentially some law students here who are listening and maybe debating whether they want to jump in the ring. Do it, Do it,
Uh, even if you don't want to be a trial lawyer, it doesn't matter if you want to be a trial lawyer. A trial court clerkship in addition to or in place of an appellate court clerkship is incredibly valuable because it's a lot closer to what you'll be doing then. Law school Waas and an appellate court clerkship is closer to, but law school lives. But it, too, is incredibly valuable because it strengthens the very skills that you most need to get out of law school. And it's hard to do in law school writing, writing in a way that gets you good feedback that lets you really examine and improve that skill. Advocacy and both a trial court clerkship, any kind of collection and an appellate court clerkship any level of court type of court does it an additional great service. Two things. One. It's a kind of an inoculation against the fear of court groups, because you see ah, lot of people who are really lousy at what they're doing doing it, and you look at them and think if they conduce that I can do it better. That's confidence building. And so many people start practicing law hampered by a fear. Some of it is C Y. A driven. Some of it is just lack of confidence. Some of it is imposter syndrome. It's a way to get over that the best way I know. But it's also a way to get inspired. You see really great lawyering on interesting issues. It reminds you why you wanted to go to law school in the first place. It's not the mundane, day to day stuff that the life of a beginning associate is so often consumed by now that's inevitable. We all pay deuce fine, get used to. You're not there to be entertained. They call it work for a reason. But you pick this career and there was a reason, and it was a good reason. There's a lot of service to do on interesting issues with people and four people who matter. That pretty much sums up what you want out of your career, right?
Certainly. So let's talk about those dues then. Next, uh, I think after your clerkship, you went to work for Baker Botts.
and what sort of ah, law were you involved with at the time
general trial practice. You know, I thought it was a diverse practice, So I came here of and I represented mostly defense clients, but not entirely. Also, some plaintiffs, particularly is three years Wendell on and the private firms the large private law firms took on more and more plaintiffs work. Uh, but I was very fortunate because I was a litigation associate and then partner at a time when in Texas, in particular, clients were still trying cases. So I got to travel all over the state and beyond trying cases nitride cases in Orange, Texas, and in the Panhandle and South Texas and Browns. Bill. And, uh, I was outside of my elements a lot of times, and it was kind of like moving around a lot as a kid. It wasn't always fun, but it was sure good for me. I learned a great deal, and I had great mentors. Great. Try a lawyers who made sure that I knew that I didn't know much and help me learn.
So you mentioned the trials were a lot more prevalent back then about how maney could you estimate per year that just because
not estimate it felt like I was always getting ready for trial or getting over being in trial
is that Is that I've heard about the intensity of going through trial, I guess, especially with attorneys, that it's a small team are a big team. You come out of it with kind of a bond with. You do? Yeah,
you do. And I valued that agree feel
It looks like it didn't take you very long to become partner.
Uh, it felt like a while. It was standard time, pretty much. And, um, when I was, uh, a new mother might First child was three months old. I became partner. And I remember that very vividly because on the night they made the announcement, my husband took my daughter and me out to dinner. And I had a beautiful new suit on because I knew that the day was going to be announced that day. And my daughter immediately put me in my place by reminding me through the most graphic, possible way that the dry cleaner had to attend to promptly that I waas not any different than I had been. First thing that more.
That's your daughter's. Very wise. My
daughters have served that function. I now have four of them, and they continue to make sure that my head stage normal size
that. Just there. Major job.
Love to hear more about your daughters in a little bit. But first, uh, you had mentioned before with your story from law school that, you know, that was a different time. 1985 was a different time to write. Were there a lot more? A lot of women partners at the time at Baker Botts? No. Have a lonely club.
It wasn't that lonely. I was not a pioneer, Okay? I was not, um t okay. Sort of in between where we are now, which is that over half of the partnership class size and entering class sizes or women. Uh, we were still a pretty small number, but we were not real birds.
Okay? And then how did you enter consideration? I guess enter the conversation to become nominated as a federal judge.
I was really lucky Is the primary answer. But two things really got me there. One was in the work I did traveling around and trying cases. I met some just God awful judges, and they were inspirational. Sort of. The same reason I described is the confidence building experience of seeing bad lawyers at work. The harm that I saw bad judges do. The wasted opportunities inspired me to want to do that and do it better. And then I saw some great judges and to who really stand out where two federal judges Barefoot Sanders in Dallas, who was wonderful, and Carl Bju, who served, are court with great distinction for many years, Dutch boob. You is now in his nineties, and he waas beloved and respected, and I tried a case in his courtroom as a pretty inexperienced lawyer and thought, That's who I want to be.
That's fantastic. It sounds like I need to do a little homework. I haven't heard of either of those judges yet.
They are wonderful. And, um, in 1992 I was. Timing is everything. So there was a bill called the Civil Justice Reform Act, which was supposed to reduce the cost and delay of getting civil cases to trial and had a lot of different performs. Only two of them really made a huge difference. One was the so called six month list. Do you guys know what that is?
It's the walk of shame. So every six months there is a public report issued of the motions on each district judge's docket that have been languishing undecided for six months in cases that have been sitting under adjudicated for a least three years now there's often a good reason for those things to be delayed. They don't care. It just listed with numbers mercilessly printed next to your name. PS are appellate court colleagues do not have similar publicity.
they don't enjoy that. But that was sort of a soft incentive to get us to get off our judicial posteriors and not let the most difficult cases just sink to the bottom. You got to get him done to get him off your list, so that was pretty smart as a way of reducing the light. Second thing they did was look around and say We just need more judges in some of these places. Southern District of Texas got five in one swell food. That was enough for there to be selection made on the basis, not merely people who had been politically active, but also people who for other reasons, would make good judges. And I was not politically active at the time I had. I was a new partner. I had two Children, one of whom was cognitively disabled. I was fully occupied. I didn't have time to go volunteering and political stuff, even if I wanted to. So I showed up. I was a political neophyte, and it turned out to be helpful because there were people who were politically active also in the mix, and it turned out to be helpful to have the mix. So I was lucky. 1992 Election year I nonetheless get through, and several of the people who were nominated with me did not. One of them is now on the bench. 10 years later, Andy Hanen, who had to spend the intervening decade making money, Um, so I'm not sure he ended up thinking it was a bad deal or all that. I was lucky I got through, and I've loved it in the 28 years since I love it. Today, I find it just Azzan first thing, as I did on Day one, and I feel incredibly grateful to be able to say that.
That's wonderful. Uh, and now you're the chief judge. But you weren't chief judge on day one. No, but you did have a significant amount of trial experience at the time, So it seems like you probably were able to slide right in and
I had no criminal experience, okay? That criminal laws basically constitutional law, Constitutional procedure law and I loved it. It was fascinating. So I did not find it daunting and it was work. But that's fine. And Houston is very fortunate in having a really good public defender, Criminal Justice Act, panel of court appointed lawyers for defendants and a great U. S attorney's office. So we have a racehorse, Haynes and Dick DeGuerin and Claris Flood and David Gerger. We got great criminal defense lawyers here, so and great public defenders. So I had a terrific set of tutors. I still do
and you've mentioned before that, and you alluded to it a little bit earlier. But the breadth of issues that you encounter, one being a federal judge and then to anything you said specifically in the Southern District in the Houston Division, can you speak to that a little bit.
It's not just the Houston division, although I think that in the Houston division we have the best docket mix in the country. Okay, as we are the fourth almost third largest city in the country. We have a great commercial center. We have a medical center that beats the band. We get a lot of intellectual property cases. We have the third largest port in the countries. We get all the admiralty cases, if they will, the oil and gas cases banking, and then we have a large number of public employers. So we get all of the civil rights cases. We get all the employment cases against both the public and private sector. We have Rice University and the University of Houston and Thurgood Marshall and South Texas and all of the stuff that having educational institutions engendered, we got a bunch of stuff. It's great. We're very lucky. And then we also sit in a district that is one of the very largest in the country. We have seven divisions that's unparalleled. We have, and they range all the way from Houston to Laredo, pretty different all the way over to Corpus and back up Galveston, Houston with McAllen, Brownsville in between and Victoria. It's a vast range, diverse range and vast just in geography. So it's fascinating, and we have more of the Southern border in our district than any other district in the country
So that's a hell of a combination of things to keep the interest high,
wonderful mix, never a boring day. Care on a magical
ring, your exact and there no predictable days.
And at one point it seemed like you might have been interested in becoming an appellate judge. To am I wrong or is estimated at one.
I think every trial judge sort of looks around and thinks, you know, I could stand a couple of days of grading papers.
being graded. But I love what I do. I love presiding over the trials. I love the up close and personal, and I sit with appellate courts all over the country at least once a year, usually twice So I have. I think I have the best of all possible worlds. I get to do both.
All right, so now let's turn Teoh one specific matter. That was before you This is actually how I first heard about you wanna In my first semester of law school, someone brought up the recent money bail order, and at that time, I think it was just a temporary order on and I I have to admit to something This was so fascinating to me at the time that over my winter break, I I started reading it and I couldn't put it down. I don't think this is a normal therapy for that. Yes, I stayed up all night on I read it. First of all, just the amount of history that was in that order. It was just incredible because
I learned a lot.
You, I bet, Yeah, I learned a lot. I think the whole country did a t least once people who are focused on that issue. Um, So, uh, can you explain a little bit about what the temporary order did? And kind of, I guess the legal issue that was at play.
Well, the legal issue was whether and I can't speak too much about it because they're still monitoring of the order that is in my responsibilities. But the legal issue was whether charging money, bail to those who could not afford it constituted a wealth based discrimination by keeping people incarcerated Soling on the basis of their inability to pay. Okay. And I found that that was indeed a constitutional violation and that Harris County was flagrantly violating and that there were steps that could be taken that were sufficiently narrowly tailored to the violation. That could provide a better way of identifying those who were in need of incarceration while they were waiting for trial, even for misdemeanors and those who could safely be released if they could not afford to pay and should not be detained solely because they could not afford to pay when someone who was similarly situated to them and who had access to the cash to post bond was able to walk out the door. So that was basically what we were looking at, and it came at a time when there waas beginning a huge national conversation about these issues, about the ability of judges to predict who should be detained pending trial and who could be released on what terms what was fair, what was effective, what was constitutional, and it turns out to involve a very large number of moving parts agencies, people, talents, timing facilities. Resource is and thought, and I was lucky. I had wonderful law clerks who worked with me on this had great lawyers who were vigorous advocates and tested the limits of all of the legal issues appropriate and necessary ways. It served quality control well. And at the end of the day, we were among the early voices in the jurors. Prudence and it went through the appellate system and then, in a fascinating mix of law and politics, ended up finding a path to resolution short of scorched earth continued litigation. And that turned out to be good because it got done. It got put in place with a monitor attached. And so it will continue to be, as all of the's efforts now in a sense, are a valuable experiment in doing it right and doing it well. And our responsibility is going to be to make sure we get all the data that we get Billy learning that this experiment will produce and that we take advantage of it and not waste
well, thank you very much for explaining that on, and it's nice to kind of meet the person who inspired that all night reading session back in 2017.
I'm sorry. Oh, you awake for so long?
It's the sort of for
the motion picture
versus right or
the CliffsNotes version.
That's right. Uh, okay, so switching gears a little bit. So my civil procedure professor was Lonnie Hoffman. You're unlikely, man. Yes, right. What I learned. You know, in those first days of of one l year, you just want to learn what is a trial. What are the parts of it on? What are the rules behind it? But what Professor Hoffman did a really good job of showing us is that these rules don't. They're not etched on some tablet. They are fluid. They're made by lawyers. They're made by challenges. Um and so I know you've played a role in that process. Eso There are two things. One I've seen that I saw that you sat as a chair of the Judicial Conference Advisory Committee on and then additionally the chair of the Judicial Conference Committee on rules of practice and procedure, so that sometimes these all sound the same. Can you help explain a little bit of difference between those and kind of the rulemaking process.
Sure. So the rulemaking process has been in place in 1938. It's kind of a treaty between Congress and the courts, Congress says. You know, usually we bright law, you guys just enforce it or implemented or interpret it. But we're gonna let you right the law for your internal procedures because you guys are the experts were not. But we're gonna limit that. You can only write it for your procedures. You can't do it in a way that enlarges or abridges substantive rights. Number one and number two, we still get to look at. But all we can do is reserve to ourselves the right to defeat or defer. Okay, we can veto. So you send us, your draft will give. We will take a look at it for six months, and if we think it's OK, or at least not God awful or politically untenable and we do nothing by December 1st of that year, it'll become law. It turns out they're really good at doing nothing. No, that
that's a good by default. It'll pass
by default. It passes. So that's the rules enabling act process. It's a power sharing arrangement basically, and it serves the courts well. Oh, the judicial conference committees that implement this rules enabling process. There are five advisory committees neatly corresponding to these sets of procedural rules. So there's the Appellate Rules Committee, the Criminal of Rules Committee, the Civil Rules Committee, the Evidence Rules Committee and the ever Popular Bankruptcy Rules Committee. And then there is an oversight coordinating committee, the Standing Committee, the Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure. Okay, so the rules go, the advisory committees start, um, recommends drafts, published them for public comment. Taken back, revise, um, either republish, um, or send them up to the Standing Committee again. If the Standing Committee this time likes, um, it doesn't just authorized, um, for publication for comment. It authorizes them to go to the Supreme Court of the United States. And if they approve, then they go over to Congress. And if Congress doesn't disapprove them, they become law. It rivals the devastation all period of an elephant just long. But the quality control that results is huge, and they're fascinating. So it's Each of the committees is a group of academics and judges and lawyers picked by the chief justice from all over the country. It is a wonderful conversation. Best slow but best lawmaking process I've ever seen. And the friendships I made as a result of doing that work with those people in those conference rooms up for those 15 years endure.
Thank you for bringing that to life a little bit. When you were on the advisory committee, when you were sharing the advisory committee, the major task that you tackled where it changes to the discovery rules on and I think that was the dawn of
discovery. Right? Right. Okay. Uh, do you can you summarize briefly? Kind of What the what? The issue was there.
What? We had nothing in the rules that could accommodate this new form of information Easily. There was We were still we still had references to books and records meaning accounting ledgers. Who has accounting letters, right? It's all electronic. Um, it was The rules were framed in terms of the information as it was captured and transmitted in 1938. Very different. There was one quaint reference to data processing. The rest sounded like it came out of the bottom of a cracker Jack box. And so we sort of drug the rules into the modern world. And we invented a category. In addition to documents and things that were subject to discovery, obligation of Elektronik Lee stored information to capture this new form and potential new forms of how we were going to be communicating with each other and creating information and retaining it or destroying it. And it was challenging because the rules had to be general enough to accommodate future changes that we knew were coming. But we couldn't predict what they were look like or when they would arrive and specific enough to be helped, couldn't be tied to existing technology cause we knew that was going to be gone and replaced. But we didn't know what was going to come and replace it. So it was very challenging, and we made the changes knowing that we'd have to come back as we learned Maura's. We got more information about the information we'd have to give it continued attention, and that was true. There we were really right. So the work has continued on preservation on disclosure obligations on production obligations, and it will continue as we now face what we loosely grouped together as a I big data. It's going to change everything all over again.
Back to the drawing, boy.
Back to some drawing board. Whatever the drawing board of today. Consistent. It's not a piece of chalk on a blackboard anymore, I'm told.
All right, uh, so let's move into the next segment here. You at time at one point where an adjunct faculty member, I guess you potentially still are. And adjunct faculty member. Okay. No,
no. I've found that being chief judge and be and trying to teach did not happily co exist. I hope to go back to teaching at some point. I do teach summers at Duke Law. I teach a class of judges, which has been wonderful, but the years in which I also taught as an adjunct in co teaching federal courts rear view mirror.
If it okay, I was going to say I know I had a good federal courts professor, but I couldn't imagine
I do not have Professor Professor Kumar. Oh, yeah, she's fantastic on. I can't imagine what it be like to learn the learn the course from a sitting federal judge as well that sounds like it would have been quite the experience. So we do have a lot of law students who listen to this, and a lot of them are working on their their legal writing or their advocacy. Uh, sounds like one piece of advice that you would have for them is that there's not supposed to be fun, I think he said.
I don't mean to be that hard. It actually is fun, Okay, but it's fun in a different way, Done right with your all your energy and all your imagination and commitment, it is immensely gratifying. Okay, that's different. Yes, I think it's actually better.
I think we can, uh, hold both of those ideas in our head at the same time, right? Do you have any advice? Kind of concrete pieces of either something that you think people should steer away from sort of bad advocacy Or maybe concrete examples of something that you might have insight on. That would be good advocacy that we don't.
Well, I'm going to preface that by advice on what you shouldn't shouldn't do in law school. If I could do that Certainly. So what shouldn't you do? Don't Over specialize. Take yes, take doctrinal classes because those are the building blocks. Take classes that you pick based on two other selection criteria. One really good teachers, regardless of what they're teaching and to writing opportunities. Take the seminars. Take us many classes that make you right, not fill in the bubble on a multiple choice. Make you write and get your feedback as much as you can. That's my primary advice for law school in terms of advocacy. The brief. Be prepared. Be respectful and be organized. Okay, be organized. Tell the judge why what you're arguing for matters. Because if the judge doesn't think it matters or doesn't understand why, why should the judge care enough to understand that would explain to the judge why it makes a difference and explain to the judge why you deserve the relief that you are advocating be specific and what it is, why you get it, how you get it and why you deserve it.
Sounds great. I'll start today incorporating that, uh, another thing we love to ask members of the judiciary about is sort of their civic activity and their engagement with the community. Outside of the courtroom, I know. You sit on several boards, One rice university.
I'm off that board now. I got term limited, and I loved it. But I'm now in the Baylor College of Medicine Board, which I also love.
Okay, Uh, eso and also, uh, Duke University School of Law. You're still on that board? Board of visitors?
Okay on. So
for the judicial studies for the Boltons, because they part of the law school that really works mostly on training judges and keeping the conversation going long after they've left law school. We've left law school.
So what do you see as the value of being engaged with the community outside of the courtroom?
It's too easy to get disengaged, particularly the longer you were away from the practice. And there are lots of ways to continue the engagement. State judges have an advantage. They got to get out there and mix it up. We don't have that need, and too often we don't. So we get distanced and you have to be careful. You kid do things that appear to favor one law firm or once had a lawyer's over another because they were likely to be in your courtroom. But you can make yourself available in ways that are even handed in, appropriate and consistent with all the ethical restrictions. And you should, because it tells you what's going on out there. What's going on in law schools? What are the students worrying about? Why, what's going on on the practice? What's making lawyers stay up at night? What's eating their lunch? What can you do to make things better? What can you avoid doing that might inadvertently make it worse for the practice, for particular cases, types of cases, whatever the case may be. And the only way you figure that out is by would when you're a one judge court is by getting out there and listening and talking, so we try to do both. And it's also important as chief and being chief. You know, I didn't get this because I was special. I got this because I was not yet 65 on the day that the last chief quit, and I have been here a long enough time to qualify. So it's basically stamina that makes you chief. Um, but I've really loved I've loved the chance, in part to talk to more lawyers and learn for more lawyers. And I've done that. And I've also tried to improve the, um, the links between the bench and the law schools. So we've gone out to eat with law schools, groups of judges and talk to the students and informal brown bag lunch exchanges you evades is included. And we're setting that up again. To do this spring is just one example.
That's great. I know we appreciate that. Your engagement with the University of Houston specifically, um, and just learning about some of the other ways that you engaged. It's It's great. So thank you for that. One more thing, and then we can start to wrap it up. You know, there's a lot of talk about mental health among the legal profession. What are some things that you do to sort of take your focus off of the practice of law or it's just kind of live your life, you know, away from Chambers.
That's a really good question, and we all have different ways of decompressing. Um, I like to read, and I like toe walk, so I have now figured out a way to combine them. So I walk very early in the morning listening to books on Audible and I get a Lot of reading does and it's great. So I just finished listening to a terrific book that I want to recommend to law students. It's called un example. Courage. It's about a district judge in the South. In the early fifties in South Carolina, Judge Waring Judge Waring was got one of the first civil rights cases in the country, brought by a man who on who at African American soldier who on his date of discharge was pulled off of a public bus as he returned to civilian life and beaten basically for disrespecting the bus conductor so severely that he was blinded. This was one of the first cases the Department of Justice prosecuted, and it was a case that, according to a judge, Gergel, who wrote this book, did two things. One it brought to Harry Truman's awareness the need for reform to start work in civil rights and lead to Harry Truman's executive order desegregating the armed forces. And it led to judge wear ing's awareness. And he is a Southern judge, wrote an opinion that became the descent that formed the backbone of Brown versus Board of Education literally lifted. The theory of separate is unequal and created breath. It is a fabulous read. It will really piss you off in a good way and inspire you.
And who is the author on that?
Richard Gergel E r G e l. Who has themselves a district judge sitting in the same courthouse that is now named years later. For Judge Waring
to be able to trace that seminal opinion back to sort of specific events is sounds like an incredible It's
piece of work,
and it's a great listen. A zai discovered getting my 10,000 steps.
All right, and then I like to bake. Okay, please,
And that's Ah, you provided the listeners can't see today, but some baked goods for us today. They're delicious. I thought one thing worth mentioning. Ah, former editor in chief of the Houston Law Review, Alex Roberts was a clerk for you.
Great. Well, clerk.
Yeah. Great law clerk. So shoutout to Alex and eso just like to finish off by saying again Thank you for all the work that you do for the University of Houston. Thank you for the work that you dio as a judge. I mean, I see that you're constantly rated 80% of people or child lawyers, you know, in the area that just say that you're a fabulous judge to try a case in front of, um and thank you for the work that you do in the community.
I'm working on that last 20%.
Yeah, come eso Thank you very much for joining us today.
It's a great pleasure. Thank you for having me enjoy your weekend and good luck in the rest of law school,
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