November 06, 2020 Feature

Retired. Now What? Give Your Time, Talent, and Treasure to Your Community

By Emily Chafa

Judge Mock Trial Tournaments

First, a confession. I love mock trials. I love judging middle school mock trial tournaments. I love judging high school mock trial tournaments. I love judging the national college mock trial tournaments. I’ve judged various levels of mock trial tournaments every year for almost 30 years. Lawyers, judges, retired lawyers, and retired judges are all capable mock trial judges. But retired judges are perfectly equipped to volunteer and serve in this role. We know how to run a pretrial conference, handle objections, diplomatically guide litigants through a trial process with varying rules and procedures—and keep a straight face through it all. Plus, as an added benefit, retired judges can serve in this role without the distraction of and worry about a stack of orders and decisions to write, emails to respond to, and other duties as assigned, back at the court chambers or office that no longer exists. I can now volunteer to judge mock trials for a full day or a full tournament instead of one round here and there when I could fit it into my docket or work schedule. The mock trial participants love to see a real judge (a retired judge is still a real judge in their eyes) presiding over their round. They appreciate our insights and advice following each round. The students, along with their parents, teachers, and coaches, learn that judges can be genuinely nice people. They may see women judges and judges of color for the first time and realize that a judge can look like them. I typically encourage the talented students to consider a legal career. I tell them how they can become judges someday.

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