Blazing the Trail-Delawareans Instrumental in the Development of the American Inns of Court
By H. Garrett Baker, Esquire
The American Inns of Court has been a cornerstone of the Delaware legal community for most of its 35 year history. Despite the small size of its bar, totaling approximately 4,100 active members, Delaware has the largest per capita participation of its judiciary and bar in the American Inns of Court. Delaware founded its first Inn in 1985 and founded its most recent Inn in 2013. It is now home to seven Inns including five specialty Inns.
Two Delaware judges, Justice Randy J. Holland of the Supreme Court of Delaware and Judge Kent A. Jordan of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, have played key roles in the development and progress of the American Inns of Court on both a national and local front. Jordan currently serves as secretary of the American Inns of Court Board of Trustees. However, his leadership in the American Inns of Court predates his matriculation from law school. Jordan first learned about the American Inns of Court while in Utah at the conclusion of his second year at Georgetown Law in 1982. He read an article about the fledgling organization that appeared in the ABA Journal authored by Judge J. Clifford Wallace of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
Jordan was impressed by the qualities that the American Inns of Court promoted, most especially in the area of mentoring, and decided to learn more about it. Undaunted by the notion that young law students do not normally get audiences with federal judges, Jordan reached out to Judge A. Sherman Christensen of the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah, who encouraged his interest in the American Inns of Court and recommended that he contact his law school dean about his interest.
Georgetown's dean sent Jordan to Professor Sherman L. Cohn who suggested that Jordan draft a memo so that he could learn more about the concept. Impressed by the potential of the American Inns of Court, Cohn was instrumental in founding the Charles Fahy American Inn of Court in 1983. Judge Fahy had served as circuit judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and had been a mentor to Cohn.
The formation of the American Inn of Court gained considerable momentum when Chief Justice Warren E. Burger put the resources of the Supreme Court of the United States behind the movement and established an ad hoc committee on behalf of the federal judicial conference comprised of federal judges and seasoned practitioners. Jordan was appointed a student member of that committee, which later developed into the American Inns of Court Foundation. Bringing the circle complete, Jordan now serves as a trustee of the very organization he and his fellow committee members helped to form.
Following law school, Jordan was offered a clerkship with U.S. District Judge James L. Latchum of the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware. His co-clerk, Kevin F. Brady, learned of Jordan's experiences in serving on the ad hoc committee and forming the Fahy Inn; both shared an enthusiasm for bringing the American Inns of Court to Delaware. Latchum took up the task of obtaining involvement of the bench and bar, while Dean Anthony Santoro of the Widener Law School labored to promote involvement among the law students. This led to the formation of the first Inn of Court in Delaware, the Richard S. Rodney American Inn of Court in 1985.
While the federal courts were active in building the American Inns of Court, there had been less involvement among the state courts. The American Inns of Court movement spread to the state courts largely due to the influence and efforts of Justice Randy J. Holland of the Delaware Supreme Court. Holland was a founder of the second Delaware Inn, the Terry-Carey American Inn of Court in 1990, and served as its first president. The following year, Holland was chosen as the first state court judge to serve as a member of the American Inns of Court Board of Trustees.
Just as Chief Justice Burger had done in getting the federal judicial conference behind the American Inns of Court movement, Holland secured the backing of the state judicial conference to encourage the state courts to promote the American Inns of Court and its values. Holland also served on the committee that drafted the American Inns of Court Professional Creed.
Holland served as vice president of the national American Inns of Court from 1996 to 2000 and as president from 2000 to 2004. At the time Holland's service as a trustee began, barely two-thirds of states even had one operating Inn. During his tenure, Holland worked hard to expand the American Inns of Court into all 50 states.
Over the years, numerous Delawareans have served as members of the American Inns of Court Board of Trustees and have distinguished themselves by winning national awards. Delaware has also hosted five Pegasus scholars from the United Kingdom.
Currently, Delaware has seven Inns. The Rodney and Terry-Carey Inns have been joined by the Melson Arsht AIC, specializing in family law (2001); the Delaware Bankruptcy AIC (2001); the Carpenter Walsh Delaware Pro Bono AIC (2004); and the Richard K. Herrmann Technology AIC (2009); which is the only technology Inn nationwide. My colleagues and I were proud to honor Holland with the formation of the Randy J. Holland Delaware Workers' Compensation AIC in November, 2013.
Although the Holland Inn is the newest to be formed in Delaware, having been in operation for less than two years, it is the second largest and the grateful beneficiary of the foundation that was laid by the many Delawareans who have helped shape and shepherd the American Inns of Court, not just here in Delaware but across the nation.
In describing the influence the American Inns of Court has had, first in his involvement as a law student and now as a national trustee and federal judge, Jordan noted that the American Inns of Court serves as a wonderful opportunity for seasoned practitioners to pass on their knowledge, experience, and skill to younger lawyers, which can only help raise the quality of service and improve the administration of justice. Jordan added, "Good things happen when people get together to focus on high ideals." Delaware has long prided itself on the quality and collegiality of its bench and bar. The impact of the American Inns of Court and those who have pioneered its emergence in the Delaware legal community has been significant in helping to enhance and achieve that ideal.
H. Garrett Baker, Esquire, is a director in the firm of Elzufon Austin Tarlov & Mondell in Wilmington, Delaware. He is the immediate past chair of the Delaware State Bar Association workers' compensation section and a founder and vice president of the Randy J. Holland Delaware Workers' Compensation AIC.
The author expresses great appreciation to Justice Randy J. Holland, Judge Kent A. Jordan, and Kevin F. Brady, Esq., for generously sharing of their experiences in making this article possible.
© 2015 H. GARRETT BAKER, ESQ. This article was originally published in the May/June 2015 issue of The Bencher, a bi-monthly publication of the American Inns of Court. This article, in full or in part, may not be copied, reprinted, distributed, or stored electronically in any form without the express written consent of the American Inns of Court.