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The Hon. John Koeltl Traces Shifts in Judicial Roles at Professor J. Hunter Tart Memorial Lecture

April 11, 2013

As the number of trials heard in district courts tumbles, federal judges are busier than ever, said Judge John Koeltl of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York said at a lecture dedicated to the memory of the late Professor J. Hunter Tart on April 8.

While the number of trials has fallen in recent decades, the volume of motions filed has skyrocketed Koeltl said during the lecture on “The Changing Role of a District Court Judge.”

The advent of technology makes it possible for advocates to submit more voluminous filings, challenging judges to keep the wheels of justice moving efficiently, Koeltl said.

The increased frequency of plea bargains has cut into the volume of criminal cases as well, Koeltl said, noting that mandatory sentencing minimums give judges little discretion in sentencing and that the abolition of parole gives judges responsibility for supervising defendants who have been released.

Koeltl said he was honored to give the remarks in honor of Tart, who clerked for him in 2006-07.

“I thought of Hunter as a bright and accomplished law clerk but also someone who was a joy to work with,” Koeltl said.

Tart, who earned his J.D. at New York University School of Law, where he was executive editor of the New York University Law Review, joined the law school faculty from 2011-12, when he died after a brief illness.

Dean Roger Dennis said hiring Tart fulfilled the strategy that any law school dean attempts: “try to hire somebody way smarter than you and way funnier.”

Class of 2012 alumnus Ron Kern recounted Tart’s influence as an advisor to the Intellectual Property Law Society and a coach for himself and a classmate who became champions in the 2012 Southern Regional Giles Sutherland Rich Memorial Intellectual Property Law Competition.

“It’s all because of Professor Tart that we won,” said Kern, now an associate at Woodcock Washburn LLP.