Interesting Career Option for Recent Law School Grad:
Are you a recent law school graduate looking for real-life litigation experience? You could join a firm, or apply to be a judicial clerk. But why not just become a judge? I don't know how well the job pays, but it's certainly a great way to understand how judges think.
logicnazi (mail) (www):
I didn't understand the bit about being appointed after winning the primary. Was that a primary for a different office or do they really hold primaries for appointed offices?
10.9.2006 5:35am
Barry P. (mail):
I would guess that he is running unopposed, so instead of waiting for election day, the governor has some sort of authority to name a person to a vacant office before the actual election. Makes sense to get him there ASAP, and not let cases pile up for another 3 months if the judgeship is vacant at the present time.

But that's just a wild-assed, uninformed guess.
10.9.2006 7:34am
Well, despite how well it pays, it's nice that Duke gave him a public interest scholarship so that he can serve the people like this. I guess that's probably some form of loan repayment for students who go into low-paying jobs that serve the public interest, like being a judge. Sheesh.
10.9.2006 9:42am
M (mail):
First, DJR, he went to _Drake_, not _Duke_. Secondly, what do you think such a job pay? I don't really know myself but I'd be surprised if such a judgeship, which is a fairly minor one, paid all that highly.
10.9.2006 10:40am
I assumed that he had the scholarship while in school, thus no student loans, thus no need for an 80 hour/week big firm job, thus he can work as a judge for peanuts.
10.9.2006 10:43am
Appellate Attorney:
Young judges not long from law school are the norm for Korea, a civil code country. About 1,000 people out of more than 10,000 test-takers are permitted to pass the bar exam each year (the state determines the exact number of those who pass, but anyone may take the test). The top grads have the option of being judges, following a year or so of additional study at a special judicial training institute. After serving for a couple of years as a judge they typically transition to the big firms.
10.9.2006 11:52am
JIm (mail):
Although he just graduated from law school, he is not inexperienced. For one he is 36 and to quote from the article:

"Mr. Miller is a lifelong resident of Worth County, Missouri, and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of Missouri-Columbia and a Master of Public Administration from Missouri State University in Springfield, Missouri. Prior to attending law school, Mr. Miller served as Director of the Northwest Missouri Regional Council of Governments in Maryville, Missouri."

Looks like a second career choice to me.

10.9.2006 12:13pm
18 USC 1030 (mail):
Might I add that I'd prefer him to any of the local town justices that we have in New York. At least he went to law school as opposed to here where anyone can be elected judge. Lucky for me, where I live, the justice is actually a lawyer. But, there are many, many more justices that are laborers who merely do what they think is common sense.
10.9.2006 12:23pm
Might I add that I'd prefer him to any of the local town justices that we have in New York.

The NYTimes just did a 3-part series on those judges. (Was there a thread here at VC? I don't recall. The stories are now firewalled.)

Orin could do a post on those judges entitled "Interesting Career Option for Recent Law School Grad Anybody".

Then again, we've had Supreme Court Justices who were not lawyers. Although I doubt we'll ever see that again.
10.9.2006 1:04pm
lawdog77 (mail):
Regretably, this is not that unusual in Missouri. I recall that when I graduated from law school in 1977, the son of a very prominent family of lawyers and judges in St. Louis was running for Circuit Judge (a higher position than Associate Circuit Judge) while awaiting the results of his bar exam. I don't know if he won, but if he did I'm glad I didn't have to try any cases in his court shortly after he assumed the bench.
10.9.2006 1:07pm
A.S. wrote:

"Then again, we've had Supreme Court Justices who were not lawyers."

Has anyone produced a good argument to the effect that this is necessarily a bad thing? A Supreme Court Justice will certainly be the recipient of the best legal analysis for any decision, so lack of legal expertise is not necessarily the main obstacle. Automatically excluding lay persons from
the decision-making seems at odds with a citizen democracy.

Perhaps an expansion of something like the German use of _Schöffe_ in criminal courts is worth considering, in which two lay people sit with a presiding judge (at the appeals level, two Schöffe sit with three professional jurists), and together with that judge decide upon questions of fact and upon penalties.
10.9.2006 1:32pm
Luke 1152 (mail):
That's almost as bad as appointing judges straight out of academic positions.
10.9.2006 1:36pm
Goobermunch (mail):
M and JRL:

The presiding municipal judge in Aurora, CO, who deals primarily with traffic and "dog on the loose" issues makes $107,500.00.

I'd love to have a job like that right out of law school.

10.9.2006 2:53pm
Matt22191 (mail):
According to this recent article, associate circuit judges in Missouri make $98,000 a year to start. Hardly "peanuts" in Worth County, Missouri (median household income $27,750, as of 2003). Nice work if you can get it.
10.9.2006 5:28pm
Greedy Clerk (mail):
we've had Supreme Court Justices who were not lawyers

Who? Not saying you're wrong, just didn't know that. I am aware of Supreme Court Justices that did not go to law school (Robert Jackson being an example), but they were lawyers who had trained the old-school way, i.e. with an apprenticeship in a lawyer's office, and then passed the bar.
10.9.2006 7:57pm
Down here in my neck of the woods we have lots of judges with no real-life litigation experience. Some of them are good, most of them are not. But none of them come close to the old boys (no gurls, yet) who have decided to toss in a couple years on the bench before retiring from practice. It's two different worlds, like when your kids transition from kindergarten to graduate school.

Of course, as I like to tell my PD buddies, anyone with an 8th grade education can do criminal law, so no harm, no foul on straight-to-the-bench career paths for recent law graduates, as long as it's criminal and not civil law.
10.9.2006 8:30pm
I've often said that recent graduates, especially from our elite law schools, are better qualified to serve on the Supreme Court than to appear in traffic court. Not that I'd recommend them for either purpose, but I stand by the comparison.
10.9.2006 8:59pm
Randy R. (mail):
Oh yuck! I'd much rather have a wizened old person who'se been through hell and back on the Supreme Court. Recent grads think they know everything and of course know nothing at all. They can talk about theory, but they need some real world experience before they start telling everyone how to live their lives.
10.10.2006 1:11am
Christopher Cooke (mail):
What's next, appointing a recent law school grad as a professor at a law school? Heaven forbid.
10.10.2006 1:17am
Randy R:
I don't disagree with you. My point was a different one, that they'd screw up traffic court appearances even worse.
10.10.2006 11:56am
Perry Dane:
In many, many, countires (as someone else pointed out with regard to Korea), judging is a separate career track for lawyers, and judges often or always rise up the ranks, beginning with a very lowly posting right out of law school.

The interesting question, then, is why common law jurisdictions have tended to assume that judges should practice (or teach) first. Is it that we, more than civil law jurisdictions, assume that judges require a degree of "practical wisdom" that can only be acquired over time? (But note that civil law jurisdictions also provide extensive specialized training to their judges.) Or is it just an accident in history, with its roots in medieval events and assumptions that might need to be re-examined?
10.10.2006 1:29pm
Theodore (mail):
I was told that a judge was a lawyer who had a politician as a friend. Guess they were wrong.
10.10.2006 2:59pm
In re Dane's comments. I guess it's because the "law" in civil law countries is imposed from above on those below; whereas the "law" in our humble common law lands is supposed to rise from below and be imposed on those above. In the former, geeks who can memorize rules and then apply them in a rigid manner are highly prized; in the latter, a little maturity of mind and practical, real life experience counts for much more.
Of course, some tiny minority of us would argue that the grand ol' USA is on a long slide to a dark civil law place, and so maybe baby-faced children with absolute conviction and minimal wisdom are indeed what this country needs more of. Bring it on!
10.10.2006 3:22pm