Students filled the USU’s Grand Salon on Thursday night for the chance to ask questions of eight Los Angeles Superior Court judges.
The Department of Political Science hosted the long-running program to give students a look at what a judge’s job is all about and how the judicial system really works. According to Larry Becker, “Cross-Examine Your L.A. Superior Court Judges” has been held for 17 years and draws experienced judges from diverse backgrounds.
“It’s an opportunity for the judges to speak to the people they serve and for the people to speak to them,” said Becker, who is the chair of the political science department.
Students were handed two index cards and a pencil as they entered the room and asked to write down any questions they had for the eight-member panel. After the judges introduced themselves, professor Leigh Bradberry presented the audience’s inquiries.
Many students wanted to know about the classes and skills they should have when preparing to go to law school.
“Writing,” said Judge Randy Rhodes, a CSUN alumnus. “Everyone thinks they can talk their way out of a ticket, so now they’re ready to be a lawyer. Not true. You write everything for law school.”
Judge Graciela L. Freixes, who was a sociology major as an undergraduate, added that coursework which requires analytic thought and writing skills are invaluable for the aspiring legal professional.
“If you can get courses in which you are required to analyze situations and write out what your thoughts are, that’s helpful when you go to law school,” she said.
Topics for the evening ranged from how to deal with all the debt accrued while attending law school to whether the judges got emotionally involved in their cases.
Judge Freixes recounted a case she presided over in which a drunk driver had killed a young man. The defendant was “devastated” by what he had done, and the family was heartbroken at the loss.
“You feel the emotions, but then you have to separate yourself from the emotion and make a fair ruling,” Freixes said.
Speakers also encouraged students to look into CSUN’s judicial internship program. Those interested in pursuing a legal career observe the process from the inside by shadowing a judge and learning first-hand how the judicial process operates.
Patrick Hill said he learned a lot during his internship. The political science major said he was able to observe a number of different courtrooms including family court and criminal court. Hill plans to start applying to law schools in the fall.
“If you’re interested in how the mindset of a judge works and how the system works, especially with the current budget crisis, this was a great way to spend an evening,” he said.