For a classroom full of students interested in pursuing law, what better way to learn about the judicial process than from two experienced judges? This past fall semester, Judge Charles M. Rand and Judge Francine I. Axelrad, both recently retired from the bench, taught “Judicial Process” to thirty-two undergraduates. Dr. Alan Tarr, Professor II of Political Science, usually teaches the course, but is currently serving as the Ann and Herbert W. Vaughan Visiting Fellow at the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University. Dr. Richard Harris, Professor of Political Science and Chair of the Department of Political Science, reached out to Judge Rand to see if he’d be interested in teaching the class. Judge Rand agreed, and Judge Axelrad, Judge Rand’s friend and colleague of almost forty years, agreed to teach the course with him.
Neither judge is a stranger to Rutgers-Camden: Judge Rand earned his law degree at the Rutgers-Camden School of Law in 1973; Judge Axelrad graduated in 1977. Both are brimming with compliments for the Rutgers-Camden campus and the law school. “It’s a respected education for a great price,” Judge Rand says. “I love the law school,” Judge Axelrad adds. “I’m a tremendous fan. They have top-notch students. Almost all of my law clerks came from Rutgers-Camden.” Judge Rand has another connection to the campus, as well – his father was Senator Walter Rand, the namesake for Rutgers-Camden’s Senator Walter Rand Institute for Public Affairs, a campus-wide institute for applied research and public service.
Both judges are experienced teachers and lecture for the New Jersey Institute for Continuing Legal Education (ICLE); Judge Axelrad also serves as a lecturer for the Rutgers-Camden School of Law. This, however, was their first time teaching undergraduates, which made the experience “interesting and challenging,” according to Judge Axelrad. The course, which “explores the makeup, structure, and operation of the American judicial system,” also examines the New Jersey legal system from a judicial perspective. The judges’ goal was to make the course both scholarly and practical. They used Dr. Tarr’s book Judicial Process and Judicial Policymaking as the course’s main text, and also brought in federal and state courtjudges, including a retired New Jersey Supreme Court Justice, a retired assignment judge, and lawyers to engage in question and answer sessions with the class. The students particularly enjoyed the guest speakers, who provided background information on some of the issues the class was discussing. The class studied older and current court cases, such as United States and New Jersey same-sex marriage cases, and the Harvey Cedars dune case, in which the Supreme Court of New Jersey overturned an earlier decision in which a couple who owned ocean-front property was awarded $375,000 because their ocean view was obstructed by a dune.
The judges, who met through the Camden County Bar Association in the late 1970s, are full of praise for one another and concurred that their “diverse experiences complement one another” and provide a dynamic classroom environment. Their emphasis on mixing lecture with class discussion helped stimulate and challenge the students. Their students were also glad for the opportunity to learn from judges of such remarkable stature. Bill Accordino, CCAS ’15, a political science major, was particularly impressed with the interest the judges took in their students and grateful for the advice they provided as he works toward a legal career. “Judge Rand gave me a lot of good advice about preparing for the LSATs and applying to law school. Judge Axelrad has put me in contact with an attorney friend of hers in the interest of shadowing him to learn more about the profession,” Bill says.
Judges Rand and Axelrad agree that their professional experiences as both attorneys and judges proved to be very helpful in the teaching of “Judicial Process.” Judge Rand was a general and family practice attorney from 1973 – August 1992 and served as a Municipal Court Judge in various Camden County municipalities from 1978 – 1992. In August 1992 he was sworn in as a Superior Court Judge, and in 1998 was named the Presiding Judge of the Family Court in Camden County. He was appointed Acting Assignment Judge in September 2007 and retired from the bench in April 2012. Judge Rand remains active in the legal field, serving as a lecturer for attorneys and judges through ICLE and the Forkin Family Inns of Court.
Prior to being appointed a Judge of the Tax Court in 1993 and then elevated to the Appellate Division of the Superior Court in 2000, Judge Axelrad was director of the Department of Law for Cherry Hill Township from 1988 – 1993. One of her proudest achievements is serving as the chair of the Supreme Court Committee on Women in the Courts for twelve years. This committee, she explains, “was established to create gender fairness in the court system and to advance the role of women in the legal profession.”
As the semester draws to a close and students begin think about what lies ahead, it’s sure that the lessons learned in “Judicial Process” will not be far from their minds. This course was an important stepping stone in the shaping of students’ academic and professional future, guided by two judges who generously shared their wealth of knowledge and experience.
Written By Julie Roncinske