Several months after I had been sworn in as a Trial Court Judge, I was sent to the National Judicial College at the University of Nevada – Reno for a three-week orientation course. This program was designed to help new judges acquire the basic skills of judging as we assumed our duties. (Budget restraints have eliminated this valuable skills program for new judges in Minnesota today.)
So off I went, to live in a college dorm for three weeks along with several dozen judges from across the country, and even from other countries. One of the judges I hung around with the most was from Japan.
The days were jammed full of classes, and attendance was strictly required. There were no slackers among us! We would be presented with a lecture on criminal procedure or evidence or ethics and would then retire in small groups of about a half-dozen judges to discuss. That is where the real learning took place – discussing and debating and learning from each other.
While the work week days were scheduled very tightly, the weekends, however, were open. As our children were still in school, Patty could not come out to join me, so I was on my own from Friday afternoon till Monday morning.
One weekend, I visited an aunt and uncle in Modesto, and my best friend from law school in Fresno. That trip included a short visit to Yosemite National Park – a gorgeous jewel of the national park system.
The other weekend, I drove completely around Lake Tahoe, including a stop at the Donner Memorial near Truckee California – another beautiful place with a tragic history.
The scenery of Lake Tahoe was truly stunning. I really wished that Patty could have enjoyed the day with me. I was feeling pretty lonely.
Around supper time, I stopped at a Chinese restaurant. Seated by myself at a table, I watch couples coming in, and felt more and more lonely and homesick.
After my meal I looked at my fortune cookie. It was the only fortune cookie I have ever opened that literally brought tears to my eyes. It read:
You are deeply attached to your home and family.
Another fortune: A few years ago, I joined some other judges at a Chinese restaurant for lunch. That fortune is on my computer monitor at work, and has brought smiles from visiting judges using my office:
Your judgment is a little off. Rely on friends.
Sometimes the cookies are right, sometimes, they are a little off…..
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Next Week: I do