July 01, 2017

The Role of the Judiciary in the Accreditation Project

Greg Murphy
Section Chair

Elsewhere in this edition of Syllabus, Managing Director Barry Currier justifiably lauds the 2017 Kutak Award winner, Ed Tucker. I served with Ed on the Accreditation Committee, and have thoroughly enjoyed him as a colleague on the Council. Everything Barry said is true, and more. Ed possesses a keen intellect, a delightful self-effacing wit, a remarkable ability to help the numbers-challenged understand, and perhaps my favorite quality in him, courage. The description of the Kutak award criteria on the Section’s website states, “The award is presented annually to an individual who has made significant contributions to the collaboration of the academy, the bench and the bar.” For more than two decades Ed has faithfully contributed significantly to that collaboration, and the Section is to be commended for recognizing him.

Ed has been one of the Department of Education-required “public members.” Although there are no other classes of members required by law, the Section’s nominating committee generally adheres to long-standing traditions in striving to nominate for election to the Council persons from the following groups: legal academics, administrators, lawyers, and judges. (A slot is also reserved for a law student to serve an annual term.) I write to highlight the importance of the members of the judiciary to the legal education and admissions to the bar, and to note how fortunate the Section is in securing the service of outstanding members of the state and federal judiciary.

Standard 301 provides in pertinent part: “A law school shall maintain a rigorous program of legal education that prepares its students, upon graduation, for admission to the bar and for effective, ethical, and responsible participation as members of the legal profession.” The Preface to the Standards also states in pertinent part, “ The Council and the ABA believe, however, that every candidate for admission to the bar should have graduated from a law school approved by the ABA and that every candidate for admission should be examined by public authority to determine fitness for admission.”

Judges and justices witness first-hand the quality of work by members of the bar, and their work is made much more efficient and just if that work is performed, if not excellently, at least competently. Perhaps for these reasons the work of the Section has attracted outstanding jurists. It should come as no surprise that their comments and positions are taken with an extra measure of seriousness in the deliberations of both the Accreditation Committee and the Council. Any policy-making body considering questions relating to the topics of legal education and bar admissions including testing for admission ought to include members of the judiciary.

In my time with the Section I have had the great good fortune serving in association with: U.S. Circuit Judges, Charles Wilson and Martha Daughtery; Chief Judge Solomon Oliver; Chief Justices Gerald VandeWalle, Ruth McGregor, Rebecca Berch, Scott Bales, Christine Durham, and Mary Russell; and, Judges Andree Roaf and Jequita Napoli. Nominated for election to a new term of the Council in August is Judge Phyllis Thomson of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals. These are just a few of the fine jurists who have contributed and will in the future lend their invaluable expertise and perspectives to legal education and bar admissions, and all for the “good of the order.” In my experience, the best ideas for good and achievable reform originate with the judiciary. The Section’s tradition of insisting upon intimate involvement by the judiciary in the work of legal education and bar admissions is a tradition that should never end.