Judge Louraine Arkfeld (ret.) was the presiding judge for the Tempe Municipal Court for over 16 years. She was a judge for a total of 26 years, having previously served 10 years on the Phoenix Municipal Court bench, five of those as the assistant presiding judge. Prior to her time on the bench, she had been a prosecutor, public defender, and private practitioner. She currently serves as the vice-chair of the Senior Lawyers Division and will become chair in August 2015.
She retired in 2010, and I recently sat down with her to discuss life after retirement. What I found was a deep commitment to pro bono efforts in her community, in the ABA, and internationally.
Young: After leaving the bench, how did you become involved in the Tempe community?
Arkfeld: While I was a judge, I had started both a regional homeless court and a mental health court. Working with the defendants in those courts and their issues involved me with the human services agencies in my community. While I was no longer presiding over these courts, I recognized the ongoing needs and became involved with the Tempe Community Council, which oversees the human services funding for my community. Through a process called agency review, citizens from throughout the community volunteer their time to determine the human services priorities in our city, review the applications for the funding provided by the City, and recommend to the City Council how those funds should be allocated. I was so impressed by the process and the involvement of the community that I volunteered to serve on the Tempe Community Council Board and will become its president in June.
Young: How are you able to use the skills you developed before retirement in your pro bono efforts?
Arkfeld: My years as both assistant presiding judge and presiding judge helped me develop strong management skills, which are very much needed and appreciated in the pro bono community. Years of advocating—and listening to advocates—honed the ability to present convincing arguments to gain needed funding for projects. The lessons of the importance of collaboration and finding solutions that engage several agencies are also extremely helpful in finding solutions for human services programs, where need always seems to exceed available funding.
Young: How did you get involved in international efforts?
Arkfeld: Even before I retired, I became involved in rule of law projects overseas, and I have continued with this work post-retirement. The contacts that led to these opportunities inevitably arose from the network of individuals I worked with over the years in the ABA. Sometimes the international rule of law community seems surprisingly small, and they recognize the commitments the ABA has made to these efforts and so welcome volunteers from the ABA organization. Again, I have found that the work I did on the bench has provided me with useful knowledge and skills to share, and not just in the traditional “judicial” capacity. Because of my years of administrative work, I have court management knowledge that is very much needed in the justice systems of many developing nations.
Young: What advice would you give to someone leaving active practice as they phase into retirement?
Arkfeld: Staying active in the ABA has been an extremely important part of my post-retirement life. It keeps me current on the leading legal issues of the day and interacting with lawyers and judges still engaged in the daily work. As noted, the ABA has provided an important network to connect me with pro bono opportunities, and the involvement keeps me sharp so that I have skills and knowledge that are current to offer when I am asked to be involved in a project. If I need an answer to any issue, I know there is someone somewhere in the ABA who will be able to be of assistance.