In this issue:
“Bellwood Day” Highlights Judicial Independence and Professional Values
The Honorable Alan C. Page came to the University of Idaho on October 20 with more than a unique biography (although many still marvel at how he managed to study law full-time, and to practice law, while earning a place in the NFL Pro Football Hall of Fame). Describing his athletic career as “history,” the third-term member of the Minnesota Supreme Court focused on current challenges to the independence in America’s state courts and on the legal profession’s need for lawyers of strong character who are committed to equal justice and opportunity.
During a panel discussion in the College of Law courtroom, Justice Page joined Idaho Chief Justice Gerald Schroeder and Idaho Falls attorney Fred Hoopes (a member of the Idaho State Bar Judicial Independence and Integrity Committee) in addressing threats to judicial independence. Noting that independence is grounded in a promise of impartiality, Justice Page said this promise is being undermined by an increased flow of money into state judicial elections, by rising activism of special interest groups in judicial campaigns, and by recent decisions striking down regulations of campaign conduct by judicial candidates. See Republican Party of Minnesota v. White, 536 U.S. 765 (2004), holding that judicial candidates may announce positions on issues likely to come before the courts; and, on remand, 416 F.3d 738 (8th Cir. 2005), further holding that judicial candidates may solicit campaign contributions and engage in partisan activities. “I do not know,” Justice Page said, “how as a partisan politician I can be an impartial judge.”
Chief Justice Schroeder agreed that times have changed, and not for the better. As Idaho’s longest serving member of the judiciary, the Chief Justice observed that outside money and single-issue campaigns are now exerting “unfortunate pressures” on the courts in Idaho and elsewhere. Mr. Hoopes provided a history of judicial independence in Anglo-American law, declaring that the integrity of the courts has become “the most important issue in my thirty-plus years of practice…. [We] need to give the public a civics lesson.”
In the Sherman J. Bellwood Memorial Lecture that afternoon, Justice Page stated that although a legal education prepares us “intellectually, and even psychologically, to work hard, and to think critically and thoroughly,” we also need to emphasize “strict ethical responsibilities in our dealings with clients.” He lamented incivility, likening it to “the intimidation and taunting seen on athletic fields.” Urging an emphasis on the development of strong character, he said, “Whether we’re a professor, a student, a part of the University of Idaho community, or a Supreme Court Justice … we will be forced to re-evaluate and renew our character again and again.” He also linked racial issues with the centrality of character: “The outward differences, that identify us as individuals, do not change the content of our character…. We must [set] aside stereotypical views of people who are different from us.” Justice Page cautioned, however, that “living in a color-blind society should not require that we live in a society that is blind to racial bias.” He urged the legal profession to aid the disadvantaged through pro bono services, and he particularly commended lawyers, and others, who help children. (His own Page Foundation has assisted more than 2000 children in getting a post-secondary education.) “The challenge for each of us,” he concluded, “is to act.”
McNichols Competition Examines Beliefs and Biases of Prospective Jurors
The 17th annual Raymond C. McNichols Moot Court Competition featured arguments on whether religious affiliation should be added to race and gender as an impermissible ground, standing alone, for the use of peremptory challenges in selecting a jury. The topic forced participants to analyze critically the distinction between religious affiliation and individual beliefs, and to consider what it means to provide a fair trial before an impartial jury. Advancing to the “final four” in oral advocacy were the eventual winner, Chris Christensen, runner-up Aaron Johnson, and semi-finalists Noah Hillen and Matt Sonnichsen. During the preliminary rounds, Zachary Thompson received recognition for the best brief and best overall advocacy. Judging the final round on November 5 were Justice Thomas A. Balmer, Oregon Supreme Court; Judge Robert J. Bryan, U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington; Michael E. McNichols, attorney at law, Lewiston; Judge Michael W. Mosman, U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon; and Cathy R. Silak, CEO of the Idaho Community Foundation and former Justice, Idaho Supreme Court. The competition was administered by the Board of Student Advocates (Joe Miller, President; Sarah Bradley, Vice President/McNichols Competition Coordinator; and Weston Davis, Bailiff), with assistance from Laurie O’Neal, faculty advisor. The namesake of the competition, the late Judge Ray McNichols, graduated from the College of Law in 1950, practiced law in Orofino, and served with distinction as judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho from 1964 to 1985.
New Colleagues Join Legal Research/Writing Program and Law Library Faculty
The law school community has welcomed two new colleagues this fall:
Frederick Leatherman joined the legal writing and research program as a visiting instructor for 2005-06. Fred came from the practice of law in Washington, where he worked as a public defender and later established his own firm, specializing in defense of capital cases. He is a co-founder of the Innocence Project at the University of Washington School of Law, which won the National Law Journal’s prestigious pro bono award in 1999. He received his B.A. and J.D. degrees from the University of Wisconsin, and served as a law clerk for judges of both the Illinois State Court of Appeals and the Washington Court of Appeals.
Jean Mattimoe was appointed to a tenure-track position as the Collection Development/Reference Librarian in the Law Library. In that capacity, she is responsible for choosing materials in American law to add to the collection. She succeeds Robert Pikowsky, who resigned to take a position at Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech), in the Pre-Law Program. Jean received her B.A. and J.D. degrees from the University of Wyoming; served four years as the Managing Staff Attorney for Wyoming Legal Services in Cheyenne; and then earned her M.A. degree in Information Resources and Library Science from the University of Arizona.