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Judge Silverman lauded by 'Law Journal'
Judge Barry Silverman honored by 'Law Journal'
Judge Barry Silverman
Judge Barry Silverman, of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, regaled nearly 200 people with funny stories of his law school years, when he was honored recently by the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at the annual
Arizona State Law Journal
Members of 21 law firms, along with
staffers, attended the dinner held on Wednesday, April 16, at the Arizona Historical Society Museum in Tempe.
Silverman, 56, a member of the College of Law's Class of 1976 who has been a state Court judge, federal magistrate and Circuit Court judge for more than 20 years, was given the John S. Lancy Award, named for the
Silverman recalled sitting in classes taught by Professor Michael Berch, in which Berch would lope in circles around the room, expounding on the case of the day and "scaring the hell out of everyone."
"One day, each time he got close to one student, Ed Young, Ed tried to say something to Berch," Silverman said. "Finally, Berch sees Ed, and says, 'Son, if you're going to be a lawyer, you will have to learn to speak up.' And Ed said, very clearly, 'Sir, your fly is open.' "
Silverman also told of a female student in his class who came every day dressed in cocktail attire, including a feather boa around her neck. She would always be late for Professor Jon Rose's class, and would come in, wave to everyone, then sit down.
Each day Rose got more annoyed, until finally, after one grand entrance, he told the student to come see him after class.
"To which she replied, 'Goody, goody. A date,' " Silverman said.
Silverman remembered one class with Professor Milton Schroeder, when Schroeder asked a student about the case assigned for the day.
"The student said, 'Sir, I haven't read the case.' So Schroeder asked the next student, who said, 'Sir, I'm not prepared.' He got to the third student, who said, 'Professor Schroeder, I studied with those two guys.' "
Then there was the infamous streaker of 1976, a fellow student named Noel Hebets, who shed his clothes and ran through Professor William Canby's Constitutional Law class, dancing around the podium, only to put his clothes back on and come back to class five minutes later, not wanting to miss any of the day's instruction.
Later, Canby said he was worried about having to answer questions about the incident during Hebets character and fitness evaluation for the State Bar.
"Canby decided he could say that he knew Mr. Hebets was a man with nothing to hide," Silverman said.
Peter Baird, a partner at Lewis and Roca LLP, who was an associate on the landmark case,
Miranda v. Arizona
, introduced Silverman and praised his use of humor, even while on the bench.
"Once in open court, Barry was sitting on the Supreme Court bench and had a litigant appear without a lawyer," Baird said. "He asked who was representing him, and the man said, 'Jesus Christ is my counsel.' Barry said, 'Yes, but who is your local counsel?' "
Baird quoted a letter Silverman received from a defendant and reprinted in his award-winning column, "A Judge's Mailbox:"
"My Dear Judge Silverman: I do solemnly swear that you are undoubtedly the biggest unmitigated a****** a merciful god ever put upon the face of the earth. Where the hell did you come from? Out of the slime? How did someone so stupid as you get to be a judge? I swear you are dumber than even a bankruptcy judge. You are vile, contemptible trash, a mockery to justice … I wish you had never been born."
"Then the letter went on to become insulting," Silverman wrote.
Baird said Silverman was among the winners of the annual "Dark and Stormy Night" contest, in which authors compete to write the worst opening line of a novel.
Silverman's entry was: "Judge Finkel had given the clown much latitude by letting him wear stilts during the trial, but when Bozo started juggling with his honor's gavel, the judge admonished sternly, 'I will not let you turn my courtroom into a circus.' "
Silverman was born in the New York City borough of the Bronx, arrived in Phoenix in his teens, and has called Arizona home ever since. He attended ASU, graduating summa cum laude, and went on to law school, during which he served on the Law Journal.
Prior to his appointment to the 9th Circuit by President Clinton in February of 1998, Silverman was a U.S. Magistrate Judge for the District of Arizona from 1995-1998, Maricopa County Superior Court from 1984-1995.
Silverman has received several awards, including the Henry Stevens Award, given by the Maricopa County Bar Association to a trial judge "who reflects the finest qualities of the judiciary." He has served as chair of the 9th Circuit Federal Defender Committee.
Silverman thanked his clerks for all their work, his wife, Georgy, "by whom I am reversed and remanded frequently, but still managed to feel affirmed," and the students of the
, who gave him the award.
"I hope that 35 years from now you have memories like these, and are as lucky as I am to have an occasion like this to share them," Silverman said.
The award is named for John S. Lancy, a member of the first entering class at the College of Law in 1967, and the first editor of the
Arizona State Law Journal
Associate Dean Gary Birnbaum,
advisor and Managing Director at Mariscal, Weeks, McIntyre & Friedman, P.A., said he knew Lancy as a fellow lawyer, a friend, a real estate entrepreneur and a paying client.
Lancy clerked for Judge James M. Carter in the 9th Circuit before joining the Phoenix law firm of Streich, Lang, Weeks, Cardon and French. Five years later, he left that firm to establish he own solo practice in real estate and corporate law, securities, and partnerships. For three years he was vice chairman and outside general counsel of Western Pacific Airlines. In 1998, he returned in an of-counsel capacity to Quarles & Brady Streich Lang, where he remained until his illness.
"He loved the law; he loved the
," Birnbaum said. "He saw it not just as a collection of articles, but as an instrument that could be used to help real people."
Lancy died in 2001 after 20 months of fighting a cancerous brain tumor. He was 56.
"When he died, the legal profession and the legal community lost a true star," Birnbaum said.
Lancy's sister, Mae Self of Phoenix, attended the dinner along with Lancy's daughter, Jenica, from San Francisco, her husband and baby son.
Lancy, who had a terrific sense of humor, would have appreciated the evening, his family said.
"He was very funny," Self said. "You never knew if he was joking or serious."
Other awards given at the dinner were: Outstanding Managing Editor, Matt Stoloff; Outstanding Associate Managing Editor, Gary Newson; Outstanding Student Comment, Kendall Wilson; Outstanding Note and Comment Faculty Advisor, Art Hinshaw; Outstanding Note and Comment Editor, Terence Whatley; Outstanding Articles Editor, Brad Cosman.