- This month’s newsletter is about education. You’ve had quite a career in academia prior to joining the bench. Was that something that was always important to you, something intentional or did it develop organically?
Answer: My respect for teachers grew over the course of my own education. It was most certainly the teachers in my life who promoted me to further my schooling, further my career prospects, and even opened my eyes to jobs I never thought possible (or knew about way back when I was originally planning a career as a merchant marine). After my formal education ended with law school graduation, my legal mentors were the ones who spoke to me about a future career in law teaching. In particular, during my time clerking on the Court of Federal Claims, it was my mentors then—now colleagues—who introduced me to the service of teaching the law: Judge Smith was a professor every semester and strongly encouraged my academic writing; Judge Damich introduced me to academic friends (from his many years on law faculties) and later promoted my application at various schools; and Judge Bruggink first introduced me to a former clerk who years later reached out to hire me in my first law professor role.
- Did your time as a professor/educator change the way you view the role of the judiciary? If so, how?
Answer: My most recent legal scholarship focuses on empirical legal studies with coding thousands of judicial opinions, and analysis through descriptive and complex regressions. Years of conducting these large research projects very much clarified for me—in an objective way—the significance of precedent, thorough judicial analysis, and changes in common law over time. For more detail, please see any of my recent law review publications!
- What teacher do you most admire for their impact on you or the community at large, or legal scholarship?
Answer: Both of the judges for whom I clerked—Judge Loren Smith and Judge Stanley Birch. Both mentors taught me about the never ending commitment lawyers (and judges) must have on the growth, integrity, and discourse within the legal community. Beyond their significant caselaw opinions, their equally significant legal scholarship further taught me the value and impact of publishing my own articles, which later allowed me to transition from legal practice to legal academia.
- What role does the Bar play in continuing legal education beyond CLE credits? What role does the Bench play in continuing legal education beyond CLE credits?
Answer: Before any CLE need, as both a law student and law clerk, I learned the significance that the Bar and Bench have in the legal profession through networking and informal mentorship opportunities. As a junior lawyer I held significant leadership roles on the executive committee of the Atlanta IP Inn of Court, and spent a year as Trademark Committee Chair of the State Bar of Georgia IP Section. Beyond the excellent events I helped organize, my proudest Bar association achievements include organizing a charitable collection for two Atlanta non-profits and serving on the pro bono committee.
- What is the most important personality characteristic in a teacher? In a judge?
Answer: First, being a good student for life; listening and learning from everyone around you. I learned much from my law faculty colleagues, peer academics reviewing my scholarship, and my students in the classroom. I now look forward to learning from the parties before me and my colleagues on the bench. Second, judgement. Third, impartiality.
Rapid Fire Round!
- Mac or PC?
Answer: PC (and Blackberry phone!)
- Top-three songs on your Spotify/I-tunes playlist?
Answer: I mostly listen to the radio, but the last three concerts my wife and attended in Ohio were David Gray, Willie Nelson, and the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra.
- Corvette or Mustang?
Answer: Corvette all the way. I’ve owned Corvettes from every generation and always enjoyed working on them myself since high school. My favorite was my last—a 1965 roadster that I completed an LS engine conversion on.
- Midwest, West Coast or East Coast?
Answer: I’ve certainly been all over: I grew up on the West Coast (CA), I have most recently taught law in the Midwest (IL and OH), and now live again on the East Coast. That said, it was my time practicing law in Atlanta that I came to love the Southeast the most (and this of course must be my answer as I am married to a Georgia Peach).
- What’s the future of biodiesel?
Answer: I hope the general usage is growing, and for me personally, biodiesel/WVO will soon power my current project—a 1972 Chevy Blazer receiving a Cummins 6BT conversion this spring. Be ready for the Markey National Courts building garage to smell like french fries this summer.