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  • Gary Mauney

Don't "judge" a book by its cover. Or "E Pluribus Unum."

Charlotte Attorney Gary Mauney talks about Life Lessons Learned as an Appellate Law Clerk for both a Democratic Judge and for a Republican Judge.

We're in the midst of a difficult time. This fact bothers me and has made me ask why that is. My thoughts have led me to think about my time as an appellate law clerk, my first job after law school.


Hired by a Democratic Judge.

Some of you know that after law school, appellate court judge Jack Cozort, a Democrat, hired me to be his law clerk at the NC Court of Appeals. I really wanted to work for Judge Cozort; he's a Wolfpacker, and we shared a common outlook on many things (including the merits of Blazing Saddles and The Beatles). Judge Cozort's decision to hire me was one of the best moments of my life. I was living in my brother's garage at the time, studying for the Bar. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to work for him.

Shortly after I was hired, however, Judge Cozort was asked to take on another big job, running the state court system as the Director of the NC Administrative Office of the Courts. Judge Cozort left the Court of Appeals.

But End Up Clerking for a Republican Judge.

The governor appointed another judge, Judge Donald L. Smith, to fill the vacancy on the Court of Appeals. Judge Smith was a Republican. I wondered how we would get along, wondered if he would listen to me, and I wondered if I would think he was a good judge. It is fair to say I pre-judged him considerably because of his political background. I know he pre-judged me a bit as well, because he quickly and frequently referred to me as his "liberal law clerk."


It doesn't Pay to Pre-Judge People.

But you know what, I quickly found out that my pre-disposition toward Judge Smith was wrong. Judge Smith was smart, he had a sense of fairness, he didn't apply the law as if he had an axe to grind, he listened to me (at least some of the time ), and he was persuadable. At times he confided in me about events that shaped his life and his outlook as a judge. Judge Smith took an interest in me personally, and he made every effort to further my legal career. We developed a very meaningful relationship, even though we didn't always agree. Our political differences deepened our relationship, rather than the opposite. When my clerkship ended, I had learned a lot about the law, and maybe even more about people.


Listening to what others have to say. Disagree and Dislike are Two different Things.

So right now, it may seem impossible to think of the divides between us as surmountable. Some may not be, but I can assure you that many of them are. As it hard as it may be, I think we need to spend more time hearing what other folks have to say. When we do disagree, that fact alone doesn't mean we have to dislike the person we disagree with. In order to hear what the other person is saying, we have to have an open mind. That is a difficult thing sometimes. We also need to concentrate as much on our common ground as we do on obsessing over our disagreements.


E Pluribus Unum: Our National Motto, "Out of Many, One."

E Pluribus Unum really does mean something. Please look it up, it is our national motto.

My relationship with Judge Smith (who is no longer with us), and what I learned from him, tell me that productively sharing this country is achievable. There isn't a week that goes by where I don't think about Judge Cozort, and his ease getting along with people (a great quality in a judge, who needs to build consensus with other judges), and about Judge Smith, and his willingness to listen to his liberal law clerk. I love and admire them both.


Do you need an Attorney?

If you do, then you will want an attorney who will listen. And who knows that not everyone is the same or should be. Hiring an attorney is an important decision. Contact Charlotte Attorney Gary Mauney at Mauney PLLC for a free and confidential evaluation of your circumstances. Mauney PLLC telephone: 704/945-7185 or email us at: info@mauneypllc.com.