Limbaughs test students at moot court competition

Saturday, March 25, 2006

The father and son also stressed to aspiring lawyers the importance of service.

ST. LOUIS -- Introduced as "Cape Girardeau's first family," Justices Stephen Limbaugh Sr. and Stephen Limbaugh Jr. were in St. Louis Friday to share some hard-earned legal knowledge.

The father and son gave advice to students and presided over a moot court competition as this year's jurists-in-residence at Saint Louis University School of Law.

Stephen Limbaugh Sr., a senior U.S. District judge for the eastern and western districts of Missouri, and son Stephen Limbaugh Jr., a Missouri Supreme Court Justice, were the first father and son given the honor by the university.

The two stressed the importance of service as they spoke to a crowd of mostly students.

"Involvement in the problems of the disadvantaged," said Limbaugh Jr., "will be one of the most rewarding experiences of your professional career."

Limbaugh Sr. counseled the aspiring lawyers that their chosen vocation is a high calling. He recalled that 24 of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence were lawyers.

"If ever lawyers have a standard to follow it is of those fine people," he said. Many of them lost worldly possessions or died because of their stand, but not one defected, he added.

He told the crowd that public service must be part and parcel of the work of a lawyer. "You're going to live and practice law in a community," he said. "You will earn the fee that your clients pay you, but remember they are the ones making business for you. You need to pay something back to that community."

The skills of the judges were soon on display when they -- joined by Kathianne Crane of the Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District -- judged two champion moot court teams making mock arguments. Students were interrupted midsentence for clarification on minute legal matters by the judges and forced to hold their ground.

Afterward, the younger Limbaugh said he was impressed by the students.

"You all stayed with us and really kept your composure," he said. "This is probably the best finals I've ever heard."

Both men began their careers as prosecuting attorney for Cape Girardeau County.

Different types of judging

Though both are judges, their jobs are vastly different. As a Supreme Court judge, Limbaugh Jr. only hears lawyers making appeals of cases already tried. His job is primarily studying precedent and writing opinions.

"I probably only spend 5 percent of my working time actually in court," he said. He said he enjoys dealing with the "novel" and "often nebulous" legal questions of the day.

He also said he has an important working relationship with his eight fellow justices in Jefferson City and that the court "strives for unanimity" in its decisions.

"We're in each other's office all the time trying to compromise on one paragraph."

Limbaugh Sr., as a federal district court judge, gets to listen to testimony, see evidence and make rulings accordingly on cases within his jurisdiction.

"I prefer the trial to all the reading and writing that Steve likes," he said. "The life of an appellate judge is somewhat monastic; you're by yourself and reviewing briefs . ... I think the most fun are the trials."

The two men are currently writing the history of Centenary United Methodist Church in Cape Girardeau.

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