WACO, Texas -
Are cases today being decided by the "rule of law" or the "rule of judges?"
Baylor's President and Chancellor, Judge Ken Starr, joined Judge Thomas M. Reavley, senior judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, and Judge Sri Srinivasan, judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, to discuss this question and others during an Oct. 29 event at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.
The discussion, titled "The Judge's Objective: Prediction or a Preferred 'Correct' Rule?" was the first in Baylor Law School's new Viewpoints conversation series.
"This evening's topic addresses the concept of whether judicial decision-making should be crafted to ensure predictability in the development and application of legal doctrine, and whether predictability in the law, if it is the highest value, leaves any space for a judge to give heed and effect to what the court may regard as the, so to say, ‘correct' rule or result," said Brad Toben, Dean of Baylor Law School.
Distinguished guests included Judge Reavley's wife, Judge Carolyn King, senior judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit; Ambassador Lloyd Hand, a former White House aide to President Lyndon Johnson, and his wife Ann; Barbie Allbritton, a friend and benefactor of Baylor Law School and Baylor University, and Baylor College of Medicine trustee; and former Congressman James Coyne.
Daniel Attridge, Dean and Knights of Columbus Professor of Law at the Catholic University of America, served as the moderator.
Attridge prompted Judge Reavley to frame the conversation, saying: "His five-decade tenure as a judge is a testament to the great system of the American judiciary…what better way to start this topic, than to ask a great judge who has devoted his life to living it, to frame the issue for us."
Reavley called for judges to uphold stability in the law and warned against the "rule of judges," in which jurists first determine what they believe the correct outcome in a case should be and then develop a way to achieve the envisioned result.
"There's too much assumption that the proper job of a judge is to decide what that judge thinks ought to be the law," Reavley said. "We've got to start promoting the rule of law."
Judge Starr, who once served as United States Solicitor General and as a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit before becoming president of Baylor, commented of Judge Reavley: "His dedication and commitment to our country are truly inspiring. We honor Judge Reavley, an adopted Baylor Bear, as one of the most experienced and distinguished judges in the nation."
As the panel proceeded, Judge Srinivasan — who was confirmed to the D.C. Circuit Court in 2013 — said the court's proceedings were likely to perplex individuals on both ends of the political spectrum.
"If we lived in a world where we had the rule of a judge, rather than the rule of law, you would have seen an absolute sea change, an avulsive change in the law as it was interpreted, applied and rendered by our court," Judge Srinivasan said.
In Judge Reavley's post-panel comments, his effusive words of gratitude were a true indicator of just how honored he was to be a part of such a significant conversation.
"A grand opportunity to be heard on an important subject," he said.
Judge Thomas Morrow Reavley serves as a judge (senior status) for the Fifth Circuit. A University of Texas and Harvard Law School graduate, he was appointed to that position by President Jimmy Carter in 1979. Prior to his presidential appointment, he served as a justice on the Texas Supreme Court from 1968 to 1977.
Judge Sri Srinivasan was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in May 2013. A Stanford graduate from the university, law school and graduate school, he served as an assistant to the solicitor general from 2002 to 2007 and as Principal Deputy Solicitor General of the United States from 2011 to 2013.
Judge Ken Starr serves as president and chancellor of Baylor University and also serves on the faculty of Baylor Law School as The Louise L. Morrison Chair of Constitutional Law. A Brown University and Duke Law School graduate, he served as Solicitor General of the United States from 1989 to 1993 and United States Circuit Judge for the District of Columbia from 1983 to 1989.
Daniel F. Attridge began his service as dean at Catholic University's Columbus School of Law on Feb. 1, 2013. Attridge received his B.A. degree, magna cum laude, in 1976 from the University of Pennsylvania. He received his J.D. degree, cum laude, in 1979 from the Georgetown University Law Center, where he was executive editor of the Georgetown Law Journal.
WRITTEN BY: Rebecca Malzahn, Baylor University
Established in 1857, Baylor Law School was one of the first law schools in Texas and one of the first west of the Mississippi River. Today, the school has more than 7,400 living alumni. It is accredited by the American Bar Association and is a member of the Association of American Law Schools. Baylor Law School has a record of producing outstanding lawyers, many of whom decide upon a career in public service. The Law School boasts two governors, members or former members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, two former directors of the FBI, U.S. ambassadors, federal judges, justices of the Texas Supreme Court and members of the Texas Legislature, among its notable alumni. In its law specialties rankings, U.S. News & World Report ranked Baylor Law's trial advocacy program as #3 in the nation. Baylor Law School is also ranked #51 in the magazine's 2018 edition of "America's Best Graduate Schools." The National Jurist ranks Baylor Law as one of the "Best School for Practical Training," and #4 in the nation in its most recent "Best Law School Facilities" listing. The Business Insider places Baylor Law among the top 50 law schools in the nation. Baylor Law School received the 2015 American Bar Association Pro Bono Publico Award, making it only the third law school in the nation to be honored with the award since the award's inception in 1984.
Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution, characterized as having "high research activity" by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The University provides a vibrant campus community for approximately 16,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions. Baylor sponsors 19 D1 varsity athletic teams and is a founding member of the Big XII Conference. Learn more at baylor.edu