In its inaugural year, the Center for Judicial Events & Clerkships (CJEC) launched “View from Chambers” as part of its judicial engagement through education initiative. Magistrate Judge Leda Dunn Wettre ’93 from the District of New Jersey spoke to an enthusiastic crowd of law students about the role of magistrate judges in the court system and the particularities within her district.
Asked to describe a day in the life of a United States magistrate judge in one word, Judge Wettre would say “exciting.”
Judge Wettre shared that the role of a magistrate judge differs not only by district but in NJ from vicinage to vicinage. She spoke at length about the role magistrate judges play in settlement conferences and with initial appearances in criminal cases in NJ.
The event was also designed to provide the students with insight into the role of the law clerk to a magistrate judge. Judge Wettre was accompanied by her career law clerk, Raina Nortick ‘08.
Those who succeed as clerks, Wettre stressed, take initiative and demonstrate their desire to be there. When asked what she hoped her clerks would learn from their experience, she said, “I want them to be practical. You can tell the difference between people who have clerked and who haven’t by what they submit to the court.” Any former clerk, she explained, would know how best to get a judge’s attention by focusing on their strongest argument, as opposed to submitting several that were interesting, but perhaps less pertinent.
Raina Nortick shared from her current experience as a clerk to a magistrate judge: “The best part of my job is that I am at the heart of every single current case.”
Judge Wettre and Ms. Nortick enjoyed a lively discussion with the law students who ranged from first year to graduating J.D.s.
Above all, Judge Wettre and Ms. Nortick emphasized the importance of building connections with their professors and classmates at Fordham Law. Wettre credited the strength of the Fordham Law network with being instrumental in developing her career. In particular, she pointed out Professor Michael W. Martin ’92, who was in attendance, noting that Martin had encouraged her to apply to clerk for the Hon. John F. Keenan ’54. Reflecting on her career, Judge Wettre noted that the experience clerking for Keenan is what eventually inspired her to ascend to the bench after working for many years as a civil litigator.
Founded in 2019, CJEC was created to enhance the School’s engagement with the judiciary and provide increased clerkship support. Subsequent “View from Chambers” talks will feature judges from different types of courts at the state and federal levels. “We are incredibly lucky to have such a wonderful and diverse cohort of loyal judges and clerks from whom to draw upon to engage with our students,” said Assistant Dean Suzanne Endrizzi ‘96. “For the students to be able to interact and learn from our esteemed judges is an unparalleled opportunity.” “We have a long tradition of Fordham law clerks in magistrate chambers” said Professor Daniel Capra, “ and look forward to increasing our magistrate clerk roster across districts nationally.”