When our colleague and friend J. C. Lore was honored this spring by Rutgers Law as its Professor of the Year for the second year in a row, the news came as no surprise in our quarters. (We chose J.C. as NITA’s Volunteer of the Year in 2011. “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire,” as they say.) The announcement seemed like the perfect moment to put him through a round of “Asked and Answered”—which he somehow managed to make time for at the end of a busy school year, while writing a new book for NITA, teaching at a NITA program, and spending time with his wife and their five children. We don’t know how J. C. does it . . . but we’re awfully glad he does. Congratulations, J.C. We’re so glad to have you in our NITA family.
Why did you choose a profession in the law?
It sort of chose me. After finishing my undergraduate degree, I couldn’t decide what I wanted to do because I enjoyed learning about so many different subjects. I couldn’t imagine focusing on one subject and the law seemed to incorporate the many disciplines I enjoyed learning about—history, economics, political science, philosophy . . . . While in law school, I worked for Northwestern’s Bluhm Legal Center under the supervision of some inspiring clinical professors who also are wonderful NITA faculty, such as Angela Vigil and Tom Geraghty. They helped ignite a passion for fighting injustice and representing children.
If you hadn’t chosen the law, what career path do you think you might have taken instead?
It isn’t glamorous, but I have always dreamed of running a little seafood shack in some out-of-the-way location. I love to cook, and I love being near the water!
In your previous legal life, you were an assistant public defender in the Cook County Public Defender’s Office in Chicago and the Defender Association of Philadelphia. What drove your transition from practice to academia? Do you still handle cases on the side, and if so, what type?
While a student in the Bluhm Legal Center for two years and working there for a year after law school, I recognized the impact that teaching in a clinic could have on the individual client, the criminal justice system, and on the development of students. I couldn’t imagine a better trilogy of impact, which made my job exciting each and every day. I love the opportunity to prepare and sometimes inspire that next generation of trial lawyers. I wanted the experience of litigating numerous cases before making the transition to teaching, and that is exactly what I got as a public defender in Chicago and Philadelphia. Since taking over the Litigation and Trial Advocacy Program at Rutgers, I have taken a break from handling cases. It has been a big administrative commitment. However, I hope to start taking pro bono cases in the upcoming year and partnering with some of our local law firms to continue to improve our criminal justice system.
What was your first experience with NITA?
In 2004, I returned to Chicago and joined the Cook County Public Defender’s Office. When I returned, Tom Geraghty told me that I should start doing some NITA teaching and that Steve Lubet should have me teach in the Trial Advocacy Program at Northwestern. I can’t remember my original verbal response, but I know that I remember what I was thinking: Is he crazy? Fortunately, Tom isn’t crazy and has been one of the most supportive and inspiring people in my career. Steve and Tom have both been the best possible mentors, along with so many other wonderful NITA faculty. In 2004, my first NITA experience was when I taught in the Midwest Regional Program. I also began teaching as an adjunct professor at Northwestern, where we used NITA teaching materials, and I was able to further develop my teaching skills. After those experiences, I knew that I would make the transition to teaching at some point in the near future.
You’ve recently traveled to Ireland to teach at a NITA program. What is a country you’ve never been to but would most like to visit for fun, and why?
The Galapagos Islands. I guess that really isn’t a country, so my official answer needs to be Ecuador. I love the idea that so few people have traveled there and Ecuador has limited the impact of humans. Although it has become more of a tourist destination in recent years, it is still limited. Being near the water is always a priority when I travel. Additionally, learning more about the history of Charles Darwin, getting close to the wildlife, and the serenity and peacefulness of such an isolated place puts it at the top of my bucket list.
In what ways are you like your childhood self?
I still have trouble controlling my child-like excitement when good things happen, even when they are small things. I watch my nine-year-old child react with joy and excitement when anything good happens, and I feel like I acted the same way at her age and even at my current age of forty-two.
What is a skill you’d like to learn and why?
I would love to speak Spanish to be able to communicate better when I travel and in my community. I completed a five-week immersion program in Guatemala and when my wife joined me for the last week, her high school-level Spanish from almost ten years prior far exceeded my level of Spanish. It might be hopeless.
What books are on your bedside table right now?
Gray Mountain by John Grisham. Evidentiary Foundations by Edward Imwinkelried. Modern Trial Advocacy. A stack of kid’s books made up of books I get asked to read by one of my five children. They always seem to bring the long ones, so it is a pretty high stack.
If you were on death row (because your counsel wasn’t NITA trained, obviously), what you your final meal be?
Appetizer: A mix of Pemaquid Point oysters from Maine and cherrystone clams from Cape May (on the half shell). Main Course: Maine lobster, pole lima beans, and french fries. Dessert: Blueberry tea cake with vanilla ice cream (a dessert my great-grandmother made for me as a kid and I still ask for on my birthday).
What are you looking forward to?
Right now, it is summer vacation at the beach. It is long enough to unwind and relax. It is also about creating memories that my children and their cousins will have for a lifetime.
Enjoy this interview? Find more of our “Asked and Answered” interview posts with NITA personalities here on The Legal Advocate.