Friday, September 21, 2012

          Former Professor Makes Transition to Bench with Fairness, Candor and Grace

          The road from academia to the bench may be less traveled, but U.S. Magistrate Judge Donna J. Ryu says she covers some of the same territory in her current post as she did in her previous job as a clinical professor at UC Hastings.

          "There are definite connections between being a good teacher and being a good judge. Both require strong analytical skills and the ability to communicate well," says Ryu, who was appointed in 2010 to the U.S. District Court, Northern District of California. "In both instances, an important aspect of the job is to facilitate proceedings. In the classroom, my objective was to engage students in a full discussion of the learning goals. My job in the courtroom is to ensure that people have a fair opportunity to be heard and that I get the information I need to make a just decision."

          Ryu's professional experiences also have influenced aspects of her courtroom demeanor. "Transparency in decision making is a key aspect of justice. I try to explain things so that even if people get an adverse ruling, at least they know how I got there," she says. "As a judge, I work with lawyers and litigants from all walks of life. I try to put myself in their shoes, just as I did with my law students. I've found [that doing this] is a very important tool."

          Ryu launched her legal career at McCutchen Doyle Brown & Enersen in San Francisco. She later formed her own firm, Ryu Dickey & Larkin. She was an associate professor at Golden Gate University Law School before joining the UC Hastings faculty in 2002. At the UC Hastings Civil Justice Clinic (CJC), she worked with students to score a California Supreme Court victory in the landmark employee compensation case Murphy v. Kenneth Cole Productions, which led to a $1 million award of attorneys' fees to CJC.

          Among Ryu's many honors are the California Lawyer Attorney of the Year Award for Employment Law, the Asian American Bar Association's Joe Morozumi Award for Exceptional Legal Advocacy, and UC Hastings' Rutter Award for Excellence in Teaching. Her appointment marked many firsts for the Northern District of California: She is the first Asian American woman, first Korean American, and first lesbian to become a member of that bench.

          Yet even with her successful transition to the judiciary, Ryu admits that teaching is still in her blood. "I absolutely miss it," she says with a smile. "I pretty routinely warn [UC Hastings Academic Dean] Shauna Marshall that I will be knocking on her door soon to let me teach a class or two."

          [ADVICE CORNER]

          What advice would you give to law school professors who have their sights on becoming a trial court judge?

          Make sure you have well-rounded experience in managing and litigating cases: all the nuts and bolts of trials, all the work of the motions and discovery, and the pace of cases. These are things you really can't learn from a book.

          Go to News Archive

          Share this Story

          Share via Facebook
          Share via TwitterShare via EmailPrint Friendly Version

          Other Recent Stories/ RSS

          Wednesday, March 22, 2017

          We’re #1: UC Hastings Trial Team Wins National Ethics Trial Competition

          The UC Hastings Trial Team keeps bringing home the gold with another first place finish.
          Wednesday, March 22, 2017

          Tracking the Future of the Affordable Care Act

          UCSF/UC Hastings Consortium on Law, Science and Health Policy launches Health Reform Tracker website.
          Tuesday, March 21, 2017

          UC Hastings LL.M. student Simren Delaney works with early stage Bay Area startups

          Now in its 7th year, the Startup Legal Garage enables UC Hastings students to work with early stage Tech and BioTech companies to provide them with corporate and intellectual property legal services under the supervision of leading attorneys throughout the Bay Area.
          Tuesday, March 14, 2017

          Message from Dean Faigman: US News Rankings

          While it is an annual rite of spring for deans to celebrate or lament the widely variable swings in rankings from year-to-year, UC Hastings must keep its eyes on what counts. We are doing that.
          Tuesday, March 07, 2017

          What Worked for Us May Work for You: Alumni Share Bar Success Stories for New Blog

          UC Hastings launches the Bar Passage Success Stories and Strategies blog.
          Go to News Archive