Meeting the Judge

One of the best things about what I do is that I get to meet the neatest people. That happened to me today. I got a telephone call from an Orange County District Court Judge a few days ago wanting to have lunch with me in Durham to talk about an idea she had for an Ethics presentation I had agreed to do for the Orange and Chatham County attorneys on February 19 of next year.

I was looking forward to the meeting and was interested in what she had to say and thought perhaps she might have some special insight that could be helpful to me in my CLE seminars. Well…I was at the restaurant first and all of a sudden this small dynamo walked in, stuck out her hand, introduced herself to me and showed me by the inscription in her book that I had first met her in 2000 at an Inns of Court meeting, where I had spoken, and where she had purchased a copy of my book.

Over lunch, she got right to the point. Would I be willing to share the stage for an hour with Wade Smith, who had already agreed to speak if I would do so? She had invited him as well, but not by phone. She had spent an hour at his law office, asking him to speak and give his perspective on representing me all those years ago. She said she had four pages of notes. I immediately said yes, and the balance of the lunch was spent talking about how to put all this together. Except that it wasn’t.

Judge Pat Devine met Wade about twenty five years ago while she was clerking for Supreme Court Justice Harry Martin. They developed a long friendship, and the Judge today still radiates much of that zest and enthusiasm she had years ago. She cares about the people who come before her and wants to know what ultimately happens to them afterward. If I had to be sentenced by someone, I would want it to be her on the Bench.

But today she is sort of like Pallidin in “Have Gun, Will Travel” except in her case it is a black robe, which she keeps in her car. She is now retired but works as an Emergency Judge, and she was planning to spend two days this week in Wake County District Court. I think she loves it.

She worked first as an assistant District Attorney, then a Public Defender and finally a Judge. She has seen both sides up close, and she still sees both sides, even today. That is so refreshing. She does not come to a case with a bias of any kind.

What makes her story so remarkable is that she was not always a lawyer. For five years, she wore a white habit as a nun in Connecticut teaching young people in school. Then, she decided to do something different. And now she has spent a lifetime as a lawyer teaching people about fairness. Pretty cool.

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