Appellate Court judges are the final stop for most of the federal cases in the United States. They hear cases which come from large areas or regions, often encompassing a large number of cultural variances. Rather than hold trials, appellate court judges review decisions of trial courts for errors of law. Court of appeals decisions, unlike those of the lower federal courts, establish binding precedents. Other federal courts in that circuit must, from that point forward, follow the appeals court’s guidance in similar cases, regardless of whether the trial judge thinks that the case should be decided differently.
Therefore, the appellate court holds a clout of immense proportion over a large number of people and their laws. A liberal arts education could be very beneficial to someone in a position of this magnitude. Because liberal arts institutions are prided on making connections, expanding horizons, and limiting ethnocentricity, they are able to teach their students how to think on their own using a system of interwoven courses. These interdisciplinary courses present a point of view which helps students learn important skills like problem solving and communication.
Students of the liberal arts are also able to see how everything in society relates to and with everything else. For example, a liberal arts student may be able to see the connection between race and sentencing differences due to courses in sociology or their often required ‘diversity intensive’ courses. In the case of an appellate court judge, he or she may see that a trial judge’s biases interfered with his/her ruling and sentencing guidelines and may be able to ‘fix’ the improper judgment in the appeals process.
Another valuable aspect of the liberal arts education is gaining a broad range of education with better-rounded knowledge base, rather than a strict focus on one career path. This ideally exposes one to many various aspects of the world. Learning of a variety of cultures and therefore becoming less ethnocentric would increase a judge’s ability to solve problems from more than one angle, taking into consideration in his or her discretion whether the judgment made will influence positively or negatively, and whether different parties will be treated unequally based upon the decision.
To be able to empathize with a variety of people within one’s district is important because the decisions made affect all of them, and often times, very differently. According to Rosemary Keefe, there are three things that liberal arts educations offer us: freedom, fairness, and creativity. Learning these three skills is extremely advantageous to anyone, especially someone in a position of power over others. First, she explains freedom as the ability to make conscious thought processes of one’s own and reexamine them whenever needed, rather than to simply do as told and not question one’s education.
To be able to troubleshoot and understand where one comes from and who one is, is often the key to being able to “resist the closure of simple answers” (Keefe 2001). A liberal arts education frees your mind and helps you connect dots you never noticed before, so you can put your own field of study into a broader context. It enables you to form opinions and judgments, rather than defer to an outside authority. Therefore, asking open-ended questions of one’s own life and experiences can open the door to examining other’s with as much zeal and in turn “challenging one’s own mind to take charge of one’s own thought” (Keefe 2001).
For an appellate court judge, this can open doors of insight which helps them not flow with the status quo but rather examine the cases and the holdings, and solve problems by figuring out the intricacies of each distinctive situation. Second, fairness is the movement away from an ethnocentric worldview to an empathetic one that incorporates bridges which connect to other cultures and allow the student to lay a “foundation for social justice. …A liberal arts education challenges students to examine the dialectic of power relations and the possibilities of social justice.
Building a globally conscious liberal arts curriculum means giving everyone in the learning community multiple opportunities to explore other languages and cultures, to understand other customs and mores, to touch the fabric of other clothing, to taste and smell different foods, to hear the daily sounds and the music of another culture, to try to see other cultures from the inside out. ” This anti-ethnocentric way of studying the world and societies within it has an advantageous effect on everyone.
In the United States everyone is surrounded by millions of others who often live very different lives and hold very different beliefs. The interpretation of the law by judges, and their holdings, have profound effects on a multitude of people from a variety of cultures. Being able to think empathetically can be one of the best ways to solve problems of those living in close quarters with others who hold fundamentally different values and beliefs. Finally, creativity. With a view of multicultural diversity, problem solving skills are utilized to create a better world, one in which a harmony and balance can be achieved.
Using creative ways to interpret the laws for the benefit of every citizen is what we hope for in an appellate judge, rather than interpreting them as a form of social control, which so often still happens in this country. Democracy, the free and equal right of every person in the United States, must be upheld and in a way that emphasizes human rights. Many people disagree over the way to achieve democracy, but with a liberal arts education, the multiple vantage points are learned and can be utilized to protect the democratic way of life.
Liberal arts teaches its students to understand problems, generate solutions, and communicate those solutions to others in order to gain a better working knowledge of the world around him or herself, rather than focusing in and specializing in one specific area. It also teaches one to communicate effectively, function at a high level both while working alone and as a team player, have a general knowledge base in many different areas, and analyze and problem solve effectively.
While studying different areas that may or may not be of any particular interest to you, you are constantly training your mind to think critically in an ordered fashion, and to derive conclusions from any body of given information. When a judge studies law from a liberal arts background, he or she is leaving the narrow minded ideas of law behind and incorporating instead a background of knowledge which can benefit both the judge and the people. According to Bybee, “when law is considered as a liberal art, the prospect of becoming a lawyer is subordinate to the task of cultivating the mind and instilling a sense of what it means to be human.
” Being a considerate human, as in considering one’s own background and flaws, other cultures and beliefs, and the laws of the land, has the possibility of making one an excellent judge. References Bybee, K. J. (2004). The liberal arts, legal scholarship, and the democratic critique of judicial power. Law in the liberal arts. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Keefe, R. (2001). What is the value of studying the liberal arts? University of Wisconsin Center for Academic Advisory. Retrieved from http://www. uwsuper. edu/advise/studentinfo/liberalarts. cfm.