Two judges spoke about the realities of their tough jobs in the court system last Tuesday night during the Pre-Law Club’s first event.
The two judges taking part in the event were Judge Everett Krueger (Delaware) and Judge L. Alan Goldsberry (Athens), who is the father of Dean of Students Kimberlie Goldsberry.
Krueger is currently a judge in the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas, and Goldsberry is in the Athens County Court of Common Pleas.
Sophomore Jared Yee, president of the Pre-Law Club, said while the event did not have a formal title, it was commonly referred to as “2 Judges, 1 Night.”
Krueger discussed the challenges in being a judge, saying judges must be free from influence from external sources. He said these external sources can sometimes even be the police, as he said he has had a case where off-duty policemen have come into the courtroom with gun and uniform, as an intimidation factor to sway the outcome.
Goldsberry said it can be challenging to put aside personal thoughts about a case.
“You have sympathy for the litigants, but you must put that aside,” Goldsberry said. “Sometimes you have to make tough calls. We have higher courts to rule if we are right.”
Krueger said that being impartial is a balancing act.
“Judges have to be dispassionate,” Krueger said. “The difficult part is to be dispassionate, but not unfeeling.”
Goldsberry said his challenges are different than other judges because in most counties, the people in the community do not even know their judges. However, he said in smaller counties, such as Athens County, which he serves in, many people do know and recognize their judges.
“In a small county, a judge gets a lot of respect for doing well,” Goldsberry said.
Goldsberry went on to talk about the relationship between being a judge and politics. He said a judge cannot promise anything, as politicians do, except to be fair and abide by the law. He said judges do have to be partisan in some circumstances, but in his office, he said politics are not discussed.
“We don’t need to discuss politics because it will only make us mad and lose focus,” he said.
Krueger and Goldsberry said another challenge in recent years has been the decline in the amount of discretion and power judges.
“Over the course of time, judicial discretion has been taken away from judges,” Krueger said. “This is frightening.”
Goldsberry agreed that the loss of power was a problem.
“The roles of judges in American society are being eroded,” Goldsberry said. “Judges can’t rely on the amount of authority they’ve had in the past. Judges are needed to remind us of where we have been and where we are going with the law.”
Yee said the club advisor Michael Esler, professor of politics and government, came up with the idea because the university has brought in alumni speakers for students in specific fields in the past.
Esler said he gives credit to William Louthan, McKendree professor of politics and government, for his help financing the event. Both Esler and Yee said they thought the event went well and was influential for those who attended.
“Students were able to speak informally with two sitting judges, especially at the informal dinner,” Esler said.
“Highlights included learning about how one becomes a judge and what the life of a judge is like.I found much of what they had to say very informative, much of it information that you would not get out of textbooks,” Esler said.
“It was especially interesting to hear their views on sentencing reform and their concerns that judges are not given enough discretion under the new law. How local communities evaluate them on their competence as opposed to their political commitments; how they deal with political pressure; and their conception of the role of the judiciary in our government,” Esler said.
Yee said he found the lecture to be very informative.
“The most important thing I took from the talk was that in the field of law, it is important to leave personal bias out of the courtroom. We thought the event went very well for it being our first. We hope that this was just a sign of things to come.”
He said the club is planning to do more in the future, such as bringing an LSAT preparation course to campus.