“I have always loved the chemistry of the court room,” says Judge Diane Leasure. “I love being a trial judge as much as I love being an advocate.”
Perhaps that’s why Leasure, senior judicial fellow at UM Carey Law, has never really left the court room, despite retiring from the Maryland 5th Judicial Circuit after 16 years on the bench.
In addition to her post at the law school, Leasure is certified by the Court of Appeal for recall in the circuit courts, meaning she has the authority to sit in any of the circuit courts throughout the state as a trial or settlement conference judge. She is also certified to serve as a mediator for the Court of Special Appeals in addition to conducting private mediation and arbitrations. All of this experience, plus 13 years of practicing law, created a pragmatist.
“My approach is to try and make the students as practice ready as possible,” says Leasure. “I am very practical and pragmatic and that is my approach to teaching. I always say, ‘this is the theory, this is the law, and this how you put it all into practice.’”
Leasure’s experience on the bench not only allows her to pass along trial tips to aspiring lawyers, but afforded her perspective on the entire judiciary system. From that vantage point, she spies some positive trends and some new challenges for the bench.
Over the last decade, she has observed the increase of those in court who represent themselves. Leasure attributes the uptick to a slower economy, adding extra financial strain to plaintiffs and defendants; already over-burdened Legal Aid and public interest lawyers; and the influx of free or inexpensive legal information available online.
In addition to the legal resources on the web, Leasure also notes that technological advances have changed the dynamic of the courtroom and the practice of the law. In her view, technology may be hampering the writing skills of younger generations of lawyers—a trait she attempts to change while teaching classes like Written and Oral Advocacy.
“Sometimes when you read something a lawyer submitted, it’s hard to concentrate on the content because of typos or words out of context,” says Leasure. “Relying so much on spell check is a troublesome trend.”
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Leasure does see the benefits of the digital paradigm. A tool like email has helped increase efficiency during the course of a trial, not only from quicker communication, but easily documented correspondence.
Leasure believes these trends are opportunities for the justice system to evolve. She sees great improvement in how the judicial system operates, citing the increasing number of cases resolved through mediation. Whatever the trends might be, Leasure will easily adapt to the future, as she has done throughout her career. After all, she was once a fashion design major during college and still found her way to the bench.