April 24, 2007

Law school to host ceremony for new judge

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE — When he is sworn in later this month as a circuit judge in Illinois' First Judicial Circuit, James R. Moore of Carterville will be in a familiar setting — the SIU School of Law at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

The Carterville native was a member of the law school's second graduating class in 1977. And he is among an ever-growing number of jurists from a law school that graduates its 32nd class in May.

"I'm grateful for the opportunity I had at the law school, and look at it as a great asset to our community," Moore said.


Media Advisory

Reporters and photographers are welcome to attend. Interviews will be available after the ceremony.


The ceremony is at 3:30 p.m., Monday, April 30, in the law school's courtroom. The ceremony is open to the public.

Illinois Supreme Court Justice Lloyd A. Karmeier will conduct the swearing in, with First Circuit Chief Judge Terry J. Foster presiding over the ceremony. SIU President Glenn Poshard and SIU School of Law Dean Peter C. Alexander will offer welcoming remarks.

To have 51 active or retired judges in the law school's 34-year history is an "extraordinary accomplishment," Alexander said.

"I think it says we are not only preparing men and women for the practice of law, which is an important mission of the law school, but we are sending people out to become leaders in their respective communities," Alexander said. "They are being regarded as having the temperament and the intellect to serve in one of the most important jobs in our country."

The list of SIU School of Law graduates on the bench includes judges in Illinois, Indiana, Colorado, Kentucky and Texas. Among those are several federal and state appellate judges — including Bruce D. Stewart, whose election to the 5th District Appellate Court created the vacancy that Moore is filling.

Moore is the seventh member of the 1977 graduating class to become a judge.

Alexander said he is privileged to know several of the judges since arriving at the law school in June 2003. Many law school alumni are "very generous with their time and talent, and they remain involved in the life of their law school,' he said.

"I understand completely why they are on the bench," Alexander said. "They are a remarkable group of individuals. They are talented and thoughtful people. And I'm very proud to call them alums of this law school."

Associate Dean Wenona Y. Whitfield, who has been on the faculty since 1981 and taught many of the future judges as students, graduated with Moore in 1977. There is a key ingredient common among those students who have become judges, she said.

"There was something that you could say about just about all of them," Whitfield said. "They stood out in various ways — either because of their work ethic, their integrity, or their brilliance in class. They were leaders, if you will, even when they were in law school."

Like many of the students in the law school's early years, Moore was among those who could have gone to other law schools in the state and performed well, but who "chose to come to SIU," Whitfield said.

Those early classes solidified the foundation for the law school's prominence today, Whitfield said. Those early high bar passage rates set the standard for today's students, and founding dean Hiram H. Lesar was interested in building a school that trained lawyers, she said.

"We had the kind of instruction that is just hard to duplicate," Whitfield said, noting that another of the law school's strengths — faculty and student interaction — remains intact now as it did then.

Moore, 53, said he and many others are fortunate the law school started under Lesar's direction. Without the opportunity, Moore faced leaving Southern Illinois for law school when he didn't intend to go anywhere else to practice law.

"They gave me a very good education," Moore said. "At the time it was a brand new school that had no reputation other than they brought in a fine man named Hiram Lesar. Now it has an outstanding reputation."

A civil attorney since 1979, Moore served as an assistant city attorney in Carbondale for two years after graduation. A former Carterville City Council member, Moore became city attorney there when Brad K. Bleyer, a 1982 SIU School of Law graduate, became a First Circuit judge.

Moore and his wife, Cindy, live in Carterville. The couple has eight children, including a daughter who is starting law school at SIUC this fall.