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Fall Semester 1998

Inside This Issue:

  • Interviews with Alumni Distinguished Professor Jim Soles
  • Federal District Judge Sue Robinson

Legal Briefs is published by:

The Legal Studies Program
University of Delaware
219 McDowell Hall
Newark, DE 19716
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Legal Briefs

Spotlight on Faculty

Moonlighting as Madison: Alumni Distinguished Professor Jim Soles

Political Science professor Jim Soles has recently accepted a secondary appointment with the Legal Studies Program. Soles commented: "I see Legal Studies as an opportunity for students to have an interdisciplinary minor which provides them with approaches to the law from a number of different perspectives. Whereas the so-called ‘prelaw’ programs tend to be narrow, the Legal Studies program is broader; it’s a wonderful adjunct to students’ majors. If students go to law school, they won’t learn the sociology of law, and they won’t learn about the behavior of courts and judges, so I think Legal Studies is an essential minor for our students because it teaches them things that they’ll never get in law school."

Soles was named the University of Delaware’s first Alumni Distinguished Professor in 1992; he will keep this post, established to recognize superior teaching, until he retires.

The past year has been as productive as ever for Soles; he and his colleague Jim Magee in Political Science have together received a Center for Advanced Study Fellowship for the purpose of developing an introductory course that will serve as a model both within their department and for other disciplines on campus.

In 1974 he took a leave of absence from teaching at the University of Delaware to run for Delaware’s sole congressional seat. "In 1963 I cried when they killed John Kennedy, and in 1968 I cried when they killed Dr. Martin Luther King, but when they killed Robert Kennedy I didn’t cry — I swore that some day I would run for public office. I ran against Pete DuPont and lost, but realized that it’s not so much that you win; it’s what you have an opportunity to say." Even though he did not run for office again, he has remained active in Democratic politics ever since.

Over the years Soles has played the role of James Madison some 60 times in nearly 20 states, and he will be reviving his role as Madison again this fall, this time in conjunction with the characters of Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton as well. Soles explains that they will perform without a script — it will be a completely spontaneous performance in which he and his fellow characters must remain "in character."

In addition to developing new courses for Political Science majors and moonlighting as Madison, Jim Soles became Chairman of the Board of Trustees at Delaware Technical and Community College in 1997. Commenting on this role, Soles said: "In a sense, the University of Delaware and Del Tech both help keep the American dream alive, making it possible for people to succeed. If a new industry comes into Delaware, and they need to hire employees quickly, we’re already training the kind of work force they’re looking for... Many of my former students from the University of Delaware teach at Del Tech or are administrators there."

So many of Soles’ former students continue to look to him for guidance and inspiration that he often receives five or six calls a day from former students. Soles smiles: "I believe that ultimately, people learn more from people than they do from books."

Spotlight on Alumni

Looking for Logic: Federal District Judge Sue L. Robinson

University of Delaware alumna Sue L. Robinson was appointed United States District Judge for the District of Delaware in 1991. In 1994 she was inducted into the University of Delaware’s Wall of Fame. Judge Robinson majored in Sociology here as an undergraduate, and strongly supports the concept of the interdisciplinary approach to law as provided by the Legal Studies Program. "When I’m looking for law clerks," she explains, "I don’t necessarily look for those with a pre-law background; I’m looking for law clerks with a science background because we have so many patent cases. I’m also looking for law clerks from any discipline that teaches logic and reasoning."

As an undergraduate, Robinson worked on Political Science professor Jim Soles’ 1974 campaign for Delaware’s lone congressional seat in the House of Representatives. It was a very positive experience for her, and she says: "I would like to see more young people go into public service. Public service has a tarnish at present, but we still need to encourage our students to become public servants."

Referring to her decision to attend the University of Delaware, she says: "My brother took me to the campus when I was 12 years old and I thought it was the most beautiful place I’d ever seen. I thoroughly enjoyed my four years there." She says: "I really believe that if you want to get the best education possible, you can certainly do that at the University of Delaware."

After graduating from the University in 1974, Robinson received her law degree from the University of Pennsylvania School of Law. She was an associate in the law firm of Potter, Anderson & Corroon for several years, and then became an Assistant U. S. Attorney for the District of Delaware in 1983. She was appointed U. S. Magistrate Judge for the District of Delaware in 1988, where she served until President Bush appointed her as a federal district court judge.

Judge Robinson has had some high-profile, controversial cases during the last few years, including the 1995 "desegregation ruling," in which she held that three decades of busing had accomplished the goal of desegregating the public schools in northern New Castle County, and it would no longer be necessary for the state to continue forced busing of students. In 1996 the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit upheld Judge Robinson’s decision in this case, and the United States Supreme Court declined to hear it, resulting in a green light for the school districts to re-evaluate the need for busing black students to suburban schools and white students to inner-city schools (Coalition to Save Our Children v. State Board of Education of the State of Delaware, 1995).

Despite pervasive praise for her independent and forceful decisions in such high-profile cases, Judge Robinson’s approach to her work is down-to-earth: "Whenever I write a decision, I’m just trying to apply logic and sound reasoning — I’m focused on the process. You never really know how others will use your decisions in the future."

Judge Robinson enjoys her role as a mentor for her law clerks, and she encourages law students to do summer internships with judges. We believe that those whom she selects as law clerks are fortunate indeed, and we know that she will be both a role model and source of inspiration for our Legal Studies minors for years to come.

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