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Booker T. Shaw hits the airwaves for public radio legal roundtable

March 27, 2014

Judge Booker T. Shawmade his first appearance this week on St. Louis On the Air’s Legal Roundtable, a one-hour monthly feature on St. Louis Public Radio.

Host Don Marsh was also joined by Bill Freivogel, J.D., the director of the School of Journalism at Southern Illinois University – Carbondale, and Mark Smith, J.D., Associate Vice Chancellor and director of the career center at Washington University.

The full recording of the March 24 program is available here. Here are Judge Shaw’s comments on some of the topics covered during the show.

What’s it like to move from the bench into private practice?
“It depends on the judge. Certainly as a judge you don’t have billable hours, so that’s something one needs to adjust to. If the former judge is really interested in getting back into the courtroom and advocating for clients ... it can be really fun and exciting, and it’s certainly been a lot of fun for me.”

On a Missouri law that would protect private businesses that refuse service on religious grounds:
“It would seem to protect private discrimination. Even assuming it was passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Nixon, it probably would not withstand federal scrutiny.”

What are your thoughts on video and audio recording in the courtroom?
“There was a time that I thought it may in fact deter from the function of a courtroom and cause a certain amount of drama in courtroom proceedings. I’ve evolved a bit in that area. I think it really helps the public see what goes on. The greater purpose it may serve is to inspire greater confidence in the system and the way it functions for people. I think [people would] quickly become bored with it, because it’s not really like a television program and there’s not drama going on all the time, but I don’t have any overall objections to it.”

On the U.S. Senate’s rejection of Civil Rights attorney Debo Adegbile for a Justice Department post because of his past representation of a murder defendant:
“It raises the possibility that a lawyer who at some point in his or her career represents a criminal defendant may thereafter be banned from public service. As we all know, the American system of justice could not function like this. Everyone who is accused of a crime is entitled to a vigorous defense. In this case … the defendant was convicted of killing a police officer. Mr. Adegbile was involved in brief writing and representation on appeal.

“In a typical case, a lawyer is going to do the best he or she can to represent a criminal defendant and present a defense, particularly in a death penalty case. To thereafter prevent that lawyer from serving in any public capacity would certainly have a chilling effect.”