Judge Carla Moore urges black law students to keep high moral standards
Legal News Reporter
Published: May 2, 2013
Presiding Judge Carla Moore of the 9th District Court of Appeals addressed The University of Akron’s Black Law Student Association at its annual banquet recently, pushing for an uncompromising adherence to an ethical code.
“Your reputation in the legal community is really all that you have. You fight your entire career to build it and keep it unstained. It takes one careless moment, one careless decision to mar it. What you say and do matters,” said Judge Moore.
“This year’s theme is professionalism, and we chose Judge Moore because of her years of great work as a judge and her volunteerism,” said Terence Baptiste, BLSA president.
“She is very active in the community,” he said. “She exhibits professionalism wherever she goes.”
Judge Moore told the packed room of law students and UA law professors at the Quaker Square Inn that she was born in Akron and graduated from The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law close to 40 years ago. Like many others, Judge Moore said she began her career as an idealist.
“I remember having really high hopes for change,” she said. “I was naïve enough that I expected everyone to share my vision.”
Judge Moore says she quickly learned how competitive law school was and how people would stop at nothing to see others fail.
“And so it began the race to the top - but at what cost?” said the married mother of two. “Law school and the legal profession are competitive. But I always tell law students you don’t check your moral compass at the door when you enter law school. Neither do you trade it in when you receive your license to practice law. There are some things you make up your mind early on that you simple will not do.”
Judge Moore began her legal career as an assistant Ohio Attorney General, specializing in civil rights litigation. She has held several positions over the years, including Chief United States Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio. In 2004, Judge Moore was elected to the 9th District Court of Appeals. She currently serves as presiding judge and is responsible for assessing procedural questions in all newly filed and pending appeals. Judge Moore says lawyers have an image problem because their clients don’t necessarily understand the legal system and become leery of the process.
“They come to court and they hear us using Latin terms like res ipsa loquitur, nunc pro tunc or res judicata and terms that might as well be Latin like rules against perpetuity,” she said. “Look at things from their perspective, all the lawyers in the room are speaking this language and the client has no idea what we are talking about, so understandably they distrust lawyers. However, some of the image problems for lawyers are self-infected.”
Some lawyers may do things they know are wrong, and that gives the profession a bad name Judge Moore said.
“Ethical and moral [situations] don’t always present grey areas,” she said. “Often it is either right or wrong, and we know it. And in those close calls there is something inside of you that, if you are paying attention, will check you when you are inclined toward the wrong direction.
The moral compass for all lawyers should always points due north, Judge Moore said.
“Resolve to be honest at all events and if in your judgment you cannot be an honest lawyer, resolve to be honest without being a lawyer. Choose some other occupation,” she said.
The BLSA leaders also presented UA law professor J. Dean Carro with the Professionalism of the Year award.
The Akron chapter of the BLSA was formed in 1968 and boasts 25 members. It was awarded the National Small Chapter of the Year award at the National Black Law Student Association earlier this year, said Baptiste.