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LAWCROSSING            THE LARGEST COLLECTION OF LEGAL JOBS ON EARTH   LAW STAR                                           ...
LAWCROSSING           THE LARGEST COLLECTION OF LEGAL JOBS ON EARTH   LAW STAR                                            ...
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Dorothy W. Nelson: Senior Judge, United States Court of Appeals 9th Circuit and Chair and Founder of Western Justice Center Foundation, Pasadena, CA


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Dorothy W. Nelson is a Senior Judge, United States Court of Appeals 9th Circuit and Chair and Founder of Western Justice Center Foundation, Pasadena, CA.

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Dorothy W. Nelson: Senior Judge, United States Court of Appeals 9th Circuit and Chair and Founder of Western Justice Center Foundation, Pasadena, CA

  1. 1. LAWCROSSING THE LARGEST COLLECTION OF LEGAL JOBS ON EARTH LAW STAR 1. 800.973.1177 Dorothy W. Nelson: Senior Judge, United States Court of Appeals 9 th Circuit and Chair and Founder of Western Justice Center Foundation, Pasadena, CA [By Kenneth Davis] Judge Dorothy Nelson has set the legal world ablaze, excelling in a number of different areas of law. However, she didn’t originally plan to make a career in the legal field. Her decision to go into law happened unexpectedly and was motivated by a desire to help others.“My first inclination was to be a social improvement of juror pay, and the keeping of “I began teaching about mediation andworker,” she said. “After World War II, when I court statistics. arbitration and other forms of appropriatewas leader of a boys’ club for underprivileged dispute resolution (ADR-some say alternativeeight-year olds, I found that when I observed Nelson went on to receive her Master of dispute resolution) in the early 1960s beforeand complained to authorities about their Laws degree from the University of Southern it was being taught elsewhere.”special needs (health, food, parental California Law School in 1956. The followinginadequacies), I was told that ‘the law year she joined the school’s faculty to As interim dean in 1967, Nelson helpedsays this or that.’ I decided that…lawyers become USC’s first woman law professor. establish a dispute resolution center at USCappeared to have the inside edge.” During her tenure as law professor, she Law School. She said it was the first dispute was also involved in number of other law- resolution center in a law school anywhere inNelson, 77, added that she wanted to be in a related activities. She was involved in private the country. Nelson also assisted in foundingprofession that aims “to serve other people.” practice, handling family, juvenile, and a number of other organizations. adoption matters. She also formed two major“Lawyers have the training and skills to corporations, Woolstone, Inc. and California “While Dean, we established the Westernbring about real change in society and assist Limestone, and did all their legal work. In Center on Law and Poverty (in conjunctionothers,” she said. addition, she served on the Federal Indigent with UCLA and Loyola Law Schools); the Defense Panel and wrote trusts and wills. Chicano Law Center; the Center on Law andAfter receiving her bachelor’s degree in Aging (with the School of Gerontology); andpolitical science from UCLA in 1950, Nelson “But teaching and writing were my main the Center for Preventive Law, etc., etc.,” sheset about launching her legal career. In activities,” she said. said.1953, she earned her law degree fromUCLA School of Law and was admitted to Nelson thrived at USC Law School. She was In 1985, Nelson and a group of attorneysthe State Bar of California the following named its interim dean in 1967 and dean in and judges established the Western Justiceyear. For her first job out of law school, 1969, becoming the first woman dean of a Center Foundation. The initial plan was toshe worked as a research associate at the major American law school. After Nelson make use of the bungalows adjoining the 9thUniversity of Southern California Law School. served ten years as dean, President Jimmy Circuit Courthouse in Pasadena and placeShe worked alongside USC law professor Carter appointed her to the United States tenants there that would be compatible toJames Holbrook on a project to investigate Court of Appeals 9th District in 1979. She the courthouse.the courts in Los Angeles and recommend assumed senior status on the court in 1995.improvements. The study, which took three “When the bungalows we were in wereyears to complete, was titled “Survey of In addition to her academic and judicial designated surplus property in 1985, andMetropolitan Courts—Los Angeles Area.” trailblazing, Nelson was one of the early Chief Judge [James R.] Browning asked proponents of alternative dispute resolution Judge [Anthony M.] Kennedy [now a U.S.“We recommended 32 changes…to the State and believed that mediation was a viable Supreme Court Justice] to come up withLegislature, most of which were adopted,” alternative to litigation. ideas for compatible tenants, the idea forshe said. the Western Justice Center Foundation was “As a member of the Baha’i Faith, I believe born,” she said. “Judge Kennedy went offNelson added that some of those changes that one of the best ways to resolve conflict to Washington, D.C.; and I asked a groupincluded the creation of a Court Executive is through consultation or mediation rather of prominent lawyers and judges to joinOfficer, the consolidation of courts, the than the adversary system,” she said. me in forming a nonprofit corporationPAGE continued on back
  2. 2. LAWCROSSING THE LARGEST COLLECTION OF LEGAL JOBS ON EARTH LAW STAR 1. 800.973.1177called the Western Justice Center “It is tremendously rewarding to help She said that some of the most difficultFoundation to develop a research center people and groups resolve conflict of all challenges she faces as an appellate judgeto promote peaceful resolution of conflict kinds through consultation, mediation, and are having a “heavy caseload, [not] havingamong children, courts, community and dialogue,” said Nelson, whose goal is “to enough time to do adequate research whengovernment.” always have a win-win situation rather than a briefs are not as good as they should be, and win-lose situation.” balancing public-service demands on myNelson said that when she was a dean at time with court and family demands.”USC Law School, she had always wanted to Nelson, who is also chair of the 9th Circuit’sdevelop such a center in the western part of Alternative Dispute Resolution Committee, Nelson said that she considers the mostthe United States. said that her biggest influences have been important issue facing the legal community Roscoe Pound, former dean of Harvard Law today to be giving the community access to a“In the words of former Chief Justice Burger, School, her husband and her religion the justice system, not necessarily courts, thatlitigation is fine for some cases, but to think Bahai’i Faith, which she said teaches the will provide a fair resolution of disputes andit is appropriate for all cases is a mistake,” principle of consultation to resolve conflict. solve problems.she said. “Our adversary system is toocostly, too inefficient, too painful, and too As an appellate judge, Nelson sits on the Nelson advised law students to get involveddestructive for a civilized society.” bench one week in a month and hears 30 in their communities. to 35 cases, which last 10 to 20 minutesSince its founding, the Western Justice per side. She writes opinions during the “Become active in your community so thatCenter Foundation has developed a number remainder of the month. She said that she you will understand its needs; and moldof programs designed to teach peaceful and the other appellate judges hear a variety your aspirations to bringing about peacefulconflict resolution to children, youth, of cases. resolution to conflict, which will leadparents, teachers, administrators and ultimately to a peaceful society,” she members. Included among these “We handle everything from seriousprograms are the Children’s Workshop, criminal cases (capital cases, drug cases, ON THE NETModels of Unity Program, Court Workshops, rape, robbery, murder, pornography, etc.)Peer Mediation Invitational and Creative to immigration cases, constitutional law Western Justice Center FoundationClassroom Management, which Nelson cases, commercial cases, employment www.westernjustice.orgsaid is “for K-6 teachers to infuse conflict discrimination cases, environmental cases,resolution education throughout the Clean Water Act cases, Voting Rights cases, Pasadena Police Departmentcurriculum and to maximize child-centered etc.,” she said. solving.” Nelson said that what she likes most about UCLA School of LawRecently, the Foundation collaborated with being an appellate judge is that she is able to Pasadena Police Department and the contribute to making the “American judicialLos Angeles County Bar Association Dispute system the best in the world and being ableResolution Services to launch a mediation to significantly affect the lives of others.” Sheand dialogue program designed to improve added that she also really likes working withrelationships between the police department her law clerks.and the community. The program providesan opportunity for citizens and members of “I enjoy my three law clerks immensely asthe Pasadena Police Department to engage one of the best parts of the job,” she open dialogue through mediation sessions. “They come from outstanding law schoolsIt combines individual mediations of citizen and assist in my research and writing andcomplaints against the police and larger in preparing for my court calendars. Theydialogues between community members are a source of continuing education forand members of the Pasadena Police me, for they have had courses with the mostDepartment. prominent and accomplished law professors in the Unites States.”PAGE