Justice of the Seventh Court of Appeals teaches law course

Justice of the Seventh Court of Appeals, Texas Tech Law’s Newest M. D. Anderson Professors

Texas Tech Law can now boast that it is the only law school in the country to have an entire court teach joined courses.

All four justices of the Seventh Court of Appeals, which presides in Amarillo, were appointed as M. D. Anderson visiting professors for the 2014–2015 academic year. The justices follow several other M. D. Anderson visiting professors, including Ann Bright, General Counsel for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department; Judge Jennifer Elrod, United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit; and former Texas securities commissioner Denise Crawford. Funding for the professorship is provided through a grant from the M. D. Anderson Foundation, which was established in 1936 by cotton trader and banker Monroe Dunaway Anderson.

Chief Justice Brian Quinn (‘81), Justice James Campbell, Justice Mackey Hancock (‘74), and Justice Patrick Pirtle (‘77) will alternate instruction of Pretrial and Trial Litigation Practicum in the fall, and Appellate Practice Practicum in the spring. Students are required to complete both courses, through which they develop the skillsets required from the beginning of a case up through oral arguments in the Texas appellate courts. The justices incorporate a mixture of facts drawn from actual cases and hypothetical facts in their instruction.

“One of our greatest responsibilities as lawyers is to train new lawyers concerning the practical application of the law to the facts of a particular situation,” said Justice Pirtle. “Knowledge of substantive law is great, but anyone can know the law—it’s how that law is applied that determines real justice and real order in conformity to rule of law.”

Justice Pirtle noted that Texas Tech Law students are receptive, resourceful, and intuitive. Justice Campbell agreed: “Our court’s judges have had many occasions over the years to see Tech Law students in action, through internships, moot court competitions, and other such activities,” he said. “My observations always have been that Tech students are serious about the law and learning, but have that good West Texas character that keeps them from taking themselves too seriously. That’s a good combination, and I see that combination in our Practicum students.”

Justice Pirtle hopes that the courses will help students develop a better understanding of and compassion for the human element of law. “If the students I reach leave my class with a better ability to walk with confidence in the presence of highest court, and with compassion in dealing with the lowliest of mankind, then my time will have been well spent,” he said.

Texas Tech Law Review editor in chief Matt McKee (‘15) has already found the course to be solid preparation for courtroom advocacy. “As an aspiring litigator, having the opportunity to receive practical, real-life critiques on both my writing and oral advocacy skills from some of the most experienced judges in Texas is an unparalleled experience few law students can take advantage of,” said McKee. “I can say without reservation I will be substantially better equipped to represent my client the first time I walk into a courtroom as a direct result of my participation in the practicum course.”

Dean Darby Dickerson hopes to entice the court to return in coming academic years.