New to the Bench: Hon. James Moore
Friday, March 1, 2013
by: Brian Stimson
Hon. James Moore
Mr. Stimson is a law clerk at the Hennepin County Attorney's Office and is attending Hamline University School of Law School, J.D. expected 2014.
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Hon. James Moore
1985 J.D., with honors, Hamline University School of Law
1981 B.A., University of Wisconsin-Madison
2009-2012 City of Minneapolis City Attorney’s Office, Litigation Manager, Civil Division
1990-2009 City of Minneapolis City Attorney’s Office, Assistant City Attorney, Civil Division
1986-1990 City of Bloomington City Attorney’s Office, Assistant City Attorney, Criminal Division/Civil Division
Judge James Moore had always wanted to be a lawyer. Ever since junior high, when a field trip to the courthouse gave him a front row seat to a criminal trial, Moore says he’s had the legal itch.
It was the courtroom tactics that did it. An adolescent Moore watched a criminal defense attorney carefully establish that his client was hard of hearing. Then, when examining the arresting
officer, whose main evidence rested on an answer the
defendant had given in a noisy bar.
“The defense lawyer said, ‘Did you know my client was hard of hearing?’” said Moore. “And I hadn’t seen it coming at the time. I was impressed with how he had spent the day posturing himself to do that kind of cross examining with the cop. And I thought, ‘That’s really cool. I’d like to do that.’”
Moore was recently appointed to serve on the bench of Minnesota’s Fourth Judicial District by Gov. Mark Dayton.
Moore grew up in Wisconsin. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a bachelor’s degree in political science before earning his J.D. with Honors at Hamline University School of Law in 1985, where he also met his wife.
Although Moore had had his eyes on performing criminal defense work since the junior high field trip, his career in public service took him almost immediately to the city of Bloomington Attorney’s Office as a misdemeanor prosecutor. During a clerkship with the Federal Public Defender’s Office during law school, long-time federal public defender Dan Scott had encouraged Moore to try his hand at prosecution. Scott told him that if he knew how to put together a case, then he would be better at pulling one apart.
After two years in Bloomington, Moore moved into the civil division and then on to the city of Minneapolis Attorney’s Office, working in civil litigation. Over the next 23 years, Moore worked in an incredibly busy, diverse, challenging, and often high-profile environment. Cases were assigned in a manner that allowed one attorney to take a case from answer to discovery to summary judgment to trial to appeal. “I got to practice at every level of litigation on a wide variety of cases,” said Moore, calling the city attorney’s office one of the last true general practice firms.
Moore has handled a litany of civil rights cases involving Fourth Amendment violations, wrongful death lawsuits, respondent superior claims, land use litigation, challenges to city ordinances, and construction delay claims. “Almost anything you can think of came through our office,” he said. “Everyday was going to be somewhat different. You were going to learn something new everyday.”
Moore says he developed an interest in becoming a judge more than a decade ago, when he first applied for the bench. He loves the human interaction that is foundational to being a trial judge: working with opposing counsel, the public, and courtroom staff interests him far more than appellate work. With such a long career as a civil attorney for the city of Minneapolis, Moore doesn’t think his previous commitment to the city will affect his ability to be a fair arbiter of justice. Moore has taken these 10 years to think about how a judgeship would be different from his career as an advocate, and says he is always able to look at both sides of a story. As an advocate, Moore strove to be polite and professional to his opponent.
“You can’t bring biases to the bench, or at least you should be aware of what those biases might be and minimize them to the extent possible,” Moore said. “ I often had empathy or sympathy for plaintiffs who sued the city, but I had a job to do.”
Judge Moore doesn’t have an overarching judicial philosophy. What he does have is an interest in being respected and giving respect. There are many personal and professional qualities that Moore admires in a judge—the ability to connect with people, to listen to people, and the willingness to work hard.
“It’s something you see in a lot of judges,” said Moore. “But when you see it and you realize how much effort they’re putting in to handle your case, it makes you feel good about the process when you know the judge is taking it seriously and working hard.”
“If 20 years from now, people are talking about me as a judge and they say, ‘He was always prepared, polite and professional,’ I’d be happy,” said Moore. “If they threw in smart too, that’d be great.”
Moore says he also admires those judges and their staff who know how to run a good courtroom. Trials go smoothly, they know how the system works, how the courtroom flows, and know how to manage the needs and expectations of lawyers and their clients. “Hopefully my years of practice allow me some insight into that,” said Moore.
As an avid volunteer, Moore would like to make a pitch to all the lawyers in Hennepin County: Find your area of interest and contribute to the community. For several years, Moore has been involved in the MSBA’s Civic Education Committee. Particularly, Moore had been involved in the Lawyers in the Schools program, a highly successful, growing program until, due to a lack of funding, the committee lost staff support. “It is limping along, but is not as vibrant as it once was and could be,” he said. “As lawyers and judges, we all have a responsibility to our community to be involved and each individual can pick where they think their individual efforts are best placed.”
Much of Moore’s unpaid work has focused on young people and civic education. Moore is on the board of the Minnesota Internship Center, a charter school that focuses on finding kids who have failed out of traditional school. After being invited to speak to the students, he built relationships with teachers and administrators, and began volunteering.
He speaks about his work there with a certain amount of temperance to his pride. There is no personal pride in this work, he said. Rather, he looks up to the hard-working men and women of the school, the work they do to keep kids off the street, the educational values they try and pass on to those who, without it, stand a good chance of ending up in a courtroom much like Moore’s. “There are any number of challenges to that,” said Moore. “My piece is small, but I’m proud of the teachers and the staff in that institution … I’m doing a small part to help that effort.”
Moore lives in Plymouth with his wife, and has two adult children.