Appreciating Our Professors: Thomas O’Toole

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It was over in the twinkling of an eye. The entire event took, at most, ten seconds, but in that incredibly brief time I learned that the study of law was the right thing for me. The time was mid-September, 1963. The place was the old Georgetown University Law Center at 5th and E Streets, N.W. The room was shaped like a bowling alley. One hundred and twenty-five part-time evening students were shoehorned into that room. At precisely 5:45 P.M., Professor Thomas O’Toole entered the room from the back. It was the only way in and out of the room in which Constitutional law was being taught. Professor O’Toole took one step, paused, and from the back of the room, spoke in a loud, clear voice, “Mr. Chase, why was the Court in Euclid concerned about the scope of the town’s zoning plan?” Before Mr. Chase could answer, the Professor took another step into the room, paused, and said, “Mr. Kossow, why did I ask that question ?”

A few seconds later, after I had choked on an answer that included the words “comprehensive plan,” the Professor walked to the front of the class and said, “Mr. Hubbard, do you agree with Mr. Kossow’s answer?”

Forty-five years later, I remember verbatim the incident. Professor O’Toole, in ten seconds, changed the direction of my life.

Appreciating Our Professors: James D. Ghiardi

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My first experience with Professor James D. Ghiardi occurred in the fall of 1960 when I was a first year student at the Marquette Law School. I learned that Jim was my Torts teacher. Prior to that time I had never known any attorney. There were none in my family, and none of my friends had relatives who practiced law. I recall thinking in that first Torts class, if Jim was what being a lawyer was about, I had selected the right form of postgraduate education. He was the kind of lawyer I wanted to be.

At the inception, Jim made it clear to me and my fellow students that he was there not only to help us learn what Torts was all about, but also so that we learned to think, speak, and act like lawyers. We were not there to learn how to be philosophers, economists, sociologists, or political scientists. He also made it clear to all of us that knowing the elements of any particular Tort theory did a lawyer little good if he or she did not know how to prove those elements in court. What I experienced in that class made me want to take Jim’s other courses as well. It was very clear to anyone who cared to observe that Jim loved the law and what he was doing.

But Jim Ghiardi was much more than a law professor. He was and remains a dedicated husband, father, and now grandfather. He has served as President of the State Bar of Wisconsin. Election to that post speaks volumes about the respect he earned from lawyers in the state — even those who were not Marquette alums. He also served as a representative of the State’s bar in the ruling body of the American Bar Association. Jim loves sports, being a Marquette Basketball season ticket holder for as long as I can remember. Up until a few years ago he was also an avid golfer.

Several years after I graduated from the Law School, I felt a great deal of pride after making a presentation at a Wisconsin State Bar meeting. Thereafter, a member of the audience approached me and said that he was one of Jim’s former students. He then said that when he closed his eyes while listening to me he could have sworn that it was Jim making the presentation. High praise indeed.

Is Our Partisanship a Poli-Ticking Time Bomb?

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While trolling through PrawfsBlog to refresh my memory on a debate I wanted to blog about as to the teaching of Legal Writing and Research classes, I stumbled across this post from about a month ago in which FIU professor Howard Wasserman raised the question of how appropriate it is for professors to display their political preferences in the classroom and/or their offices. In reading it, I couldn’t help but think about a conversation I had had with a friend a week or two ago. In response to my joking about how important it was to read my blog posts while I was still able to post them, my friend commented that he/she refused to read the Faculty Blog because he/she didn’t want to read about the political beliefs of professors. Now, I don’t know that I find the posts here to be all that politically charged, but the fact that my friend was so adamantly opposed to that while at the same time being very vocally partisan regarding this past presidential election was something I found ironic. And now that this election has passed and the votes have all been tallied, I think it’s worth reflecting upon just how dangerous it is to be partisan in a learning environment.

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The View From the Middle

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Students and faculty of the Marquette Law School in the early years of the twenty-first century have the benefit of an affiliation with an institution that most outside observers seem to feel is right smack dab in the middle of the law school pool.  Our US News & World Report overall rating is almost exactly in the middle of the pack, and the American Bar Association reports that we are the 90th most selective of the 184 ABA-approved law schools in the United States. Our current median LSAT score (157) is exactly the median LSAT score for all students enrolled in ABA-accredited law schools, and our median GPA is almost exactly the national median as well. In the peer ratings collected by the US News survey, our score (2.3) is exactly the median for all schools, as is our ranking by judges and lawyers (2.8). (Although our judge and lawyer ranking is higher, it is, like our ranking by law professors, exactly at the median. Apparently, lawyers and judges generally think more highly of law schools than do law professors.)

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Marquette Law School at 100: Remembering Carl Zollman

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Although now largely forgotten at Marquette, Carl Zollman was a prominent American legal scholar of the first half on the twentieth century who spent his entire academic career at this Law School.  Zollman is recognized as the founder of aviation law as an academic discipline, and the case can also be made that he is the founder of sports law as well.  The latter claim is obviously quite appropriate given the Marquette Law School’s current prominence in the field of sports law.

Born in Wellsville, New York, in 1879, Zollman was educated to be a minister in the Missouri Synod of the Lutheran Church.  He was ordained in 1902 and became a pastor at a small church in Williamsburg, Iowa.  In 1906, he moved to Wisconsin, where his father, also a Lutheran minister, was involved with an enterprise known as the Evangelical Lutheran Colonization Company.  For reasons that are not known, the younger Zollman resigned from the ministry later that year and enrolled in the law program at the University of Wisconsin, just a month or two shy of his twenty-seventh birthday.  He received a law degree from Wisconsin in 1909, and he joined a Madison law firm.

Over the next thirteen years Zollman moved between a variety of law and editorial positions in Madison, Chicago, and Milwaukee, all the while publishing extensively.  Continue reading “Marquette Law School at 100: Remembering Carl Zollman”

Appreciating Our Professors: Martin F. Guggenheim

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I was the idiot in civil procedure who asked, on the first day of class, “So what happened to the plaintiff after remand?”  Actually, I’m not sure I understood or used the word “remand.”  But I definitely wanted to know what happened to the parties after the decision.

I will never forget my professor’s response.  She became quiet.  She narrowed her eyes.  She squinted at me in a way that suggested she was repulsed by the question.  Of course, everyone else in the 100-person class looked at me as well.   Finally she said, “It doesn’t matter.”

We continued with another case. Continue reading “Appreciating Our Professors: Martin F. Guggenheim”

How Could a Poem About Teaching Students to Read Poetry Have Anything to Do with the Law?

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As first reported at the Legal Writing Prof blog (and with a Hat Tip to star legal writing professor Linda Edwards), Billy Collins’ poem Introduction to Poetry “holds well as an analogy for teaching 1Ls to read cases.”

Marquette Law School at 100: Reconsidering the Law School’s Early Decades

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The Marquette University Law School came into being in 1908 when Marquette University acquired the propriety Milwaukee Law School and a recently established competitor known somewhat grandiosely as the Milwaukee University Law School. (Milwaukee University consisted only of its law school, and the school had only ten students.) These acquisitions were part of a larger project which converted Marquette from a tiny undergraduate college to a full-fledged university.

To mark the 100th anniversary of these events, the Marquette University Law School has sponsored a series of symposia this fall focusing on various aspects of the history of the Law School. The first two sessions, focusing on the Milwaukee Law School and the first quarter century of the Marquette University Law School featured the research of historians Tom Jablonsky, Joseph Ranney, and Gordon Hylton. The third, fourth, and fifth sessions featured former students from different eras of the Law School who eventually entered law teaching as a career. (These included Jim Ghiardi ’42; Frank DeGuire ’60, Jack Kircher ’63, Michael Zimmer ’67, Chuck Clausen ’70, Christine Wiseman ’72, Janine Geske ’75, Tom Hammer ’75, and Phoebe Williams ’81.) The final session, scheduled for November 18, will feature the perspectives of three faculty members who did not attend the Law School but who have been members of the faculty since the 1980’s: Judi McMullen, Dan Blinka, and Peter Rofes.

The symposium has revealed that the Marquette Law School has a rich, complicated history that is largely unknown to most of its current faculty and students. (In this regard, one suspects that Marquette is typical of most American law schools.) Moreover, the symposium has revealed that many of the frequently repeated statements about the history of the Law School — particularly in regard to its formative era — are not quite accurate.

For example, the symposium has revealed that the most important figure in the history of the Law School is almost certainly former Dean Max Schoetz (pictured above), who was dean of the Law School from 1916 to 1927.

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Appreciating Our Professors: Charles L. Black

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Charles Black was a professor at Yale Law School while I was a student there, and although I never had a course with him, I would still name him as the professor who most influenced me.

During the fall of my first year, two of my best friends were assigned to Professor Black’s Constitutional Law class, and they were quite enamored with him. He was legendary to even us neophytes: a brilliant constitutional scholar, a leading light for equality in the Brown v. Board of Education case, and an outspoken critic of the death penalty. My friends reported that despite his fame, he was modest and charming, with a great sense of humor.

Time marched on until Halloween, when I, the two aforementioned women who were in Charles Black’s class, and another woman, decided that our lack of funds should not prevent us from enjoying the holiday. So the four of us pooled our resources, purchased some red poster board, black paint, and string, and proceeded to make sandwich boards of the four first year casebooks, which we then wore to go trick-or-treating in — you guessed it — Professor Black’s neighborhood. When we rang the doorbell, Charles Black appeared at the door with a bowl of candy — he just looked and acted like an ordinary guy, with his longish curly hair, craggy face, and cowboy boots worn with jeans. He was focused on the candy at first, but when he finally looked up, his eyes widened. “My Lord!” he said in his Texas drawl, “it’s my students!”

Without a moment’s hesitation, he invited us inside, and pressed tumblers of scotch upon us.

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Appreciating Our Professors: Professors Whitebread & Bergin

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Because most law professors do not attend graduate school in law, new law professors have to rely on their own memories of law school for models of how to teach. As a graduate student at Harvard in the late 1970’s I actually enrolled in an LLM course entitled Preparing for Law Teaching, which was taught by Al Sachs, then the dean of Harvard Law School. Every week a different distinguished Harvard Law Professor addressed the class on his -– there were very few “hers” at HLS in 1979 and none spoke to our class -– views on legal education and how one ought to teach as a law professor.

However, when I began law teaching eight years later, I found myself relying not so much on this class, but on my own law student experience at the University of Virginia in the mid-1970’s. I did not particularly enjoy law school except for the classes in legal history, but I did find two professors particularly engaging. The two were Tom Bergin, from whom I had a year-long first year course in Property, and Charles Whitebread (pictured above), whom I had for upper-level courses in Trusts & Estates and Criminal Procedure.

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Appreciating Our Professors: Dan Freed

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Yale Law Professor Dan Freed has undoubtedly been the biggest influence on my own career as a law professor. I had him for a year-long sentencing course during my third year — a course that was a descendant of the legendary Yale Sentencing Workshop that Dan helped to organize in the 1970’s. The Yale workshop brought together lawyers, judges, policymakers, law professors, and law students for intensive discussions about the sentencing process. A proposal emerging from the workshop caught the attention of Senator Ted Kennedy, who used it as the framework for a major sentencing reform bill. Eventually enacted (with several important modifications) as the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984, the Kennedy bill created the United States Sentencing Commission and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.

By the mid-1990’s, when I had him as a teacher, Dan had become an outspoken critic of the Commission and the Guidelines. However, his course still reflected his faith in the value of bringing together people with diverse perspectives to talk to one another in a rational, mutually respectful manner about sentencing law and policy. Thus, we had a parade of fascinating guests in the course: judges, prosecutors, defense lawyers, probation officers, law professors, a sociologist, a Senate Judiciary Committee staffer, and others. Taught seminar style, the course included many lively, memorable conversations with our distinguished guests. The experience sparked what has become a long-term interest of mine in sentencing — a subject that I now teach and write about regularly. In fact, the paper I wrote for Dan’s course became my very first law review article. I’ve stayed in touch with Dan (now retired) since then, and have benefitted from his counsel at many turns.

Dan has been a model for me in several respects. Continue reading “Appreciating Our Professors: Dan Freed”

Appreciating Our Professors: That “One” Law Professor Thing is “Optional,” Right?

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So, I have been thinking about a lot of my favorite “law” professor. Rick and David‘s wonderful posts on their favorite law professors were, of course, inspirational. I am, however, much more indecisive than Rick and David, so I may try to sneak in a little more variety than just “one” law professor (the all powerful Michael may police me for straying a bit from the post of the month!). I actually am picking five (!) because I think about the lessons they taught me everyday:

James Cox, Duke University School of Law: Professor Cox, bar none, was the best teacher I had in law school. I remember being engaged and excited by Business Associations and White Collar Crime, like no other classes. As a student, when you are engaged by agency and partnership law, then you know the teaching is good. Why was I engaged? First, Professor Cox made business law seem relevant by bringing passion and commitment to his subject. Second, he encouraged us to talk and debate in class. Sometimes, in law school, everyone gets really quiet and it gets boring. He never countenanced that. So, class was a bit of an intellectual scrum, and thus, a little messy, and ultimately, quite good. And such classes prepared me for all those things in practice, because what is law school and its ultimate practice, but an intellectual scrum?

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