Bolch Judicial Institute at Duke University School of Law
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Judge Jeffrey Sutton

Judgment Calls is a podcast hosted by David F. Levi, director of the Bolch Judicial Institute, former dean of Duke Law School, and former Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California. In Judgment Calls, Levi interviews judges about their work, their lives, and the challenges and opportunities they see in the U.S. courts. So often judges in the United States work in solitude and behind chambers’ doors. By offering a view into the lives and work of judges, this podcast aims to increase public understanding of what judges do — and how and why they do it. In doing so, we hope this podcast contributes to a greater awareness of the value of judicial independence and advances the Bolch Judicial Institute’s mission of supporting and protecting the rule of law.

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New episodes will post monthly. Please share your comments, ideas, and suggestions with us by emailing Thanks for listening!

Judge Ann Claire Williams (Part 2)

March 30, 2020 | Season 2, Episode 1 | 51:00


  • In part two, Judge Ann Claire Williams talks with David F. Levi about her more than 30-year judicial career on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.
  • Following the police killing of George Floyd in the summer of 2020, Judge Williams discusses racism in the United States. She tells of her own efforts as a founder of numerous legal affinity groups for minority lawyers, such as Minority Legal Education Resources Inc., Just The Beginning, and the Black Women Lawyers Association, to address these complex problems.
  • Judge Williams concludes by talking about her current work to strengthen the rule of law in Africa. She has taken numerous trips to Africa with organizations like Lawyers Without Borders throughout her career. After retiring from the bench in 2018, she joined the law firm, Jones Day, and now works full-time to improve systems of justice across the African continent.

Judge Ann Claire Williams (Part 1)

1.19.21 | Season 2, Episode 1 | 49:37


Judge Ann Claire Williams (ret.), U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit


  • Judge Ann Claire Williams talks with David F. Levi about her life, growing up in Detroit, and her journey to becoming the first Black woman to serve as a judge on the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois and on the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.
  • Judge Williams was a pathbreaking lawyer and judge at every turn of her career. "To me, when a door is closed, you find a way to open it, or you move to a new door," she says in this episode.
  • She discusses her work in the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Illinois, particularly the challenges of serving as chief of Organized Task Force on Drug Enforcement during the height of the war on drugs.
  • Judge Williams also mentions several key judges who influenced her as a young lawyer, including Judge Bob Sprecher, Judge Marianne Jackson, Justice John Paul Stevens, and Judge Ilana Diamond Rovner, among many others.

Justice Dikgang Moseneke

May 18, 2020 | Season 1, Episode 6 | 50:43


  • Justice Dikgang Moseneke talks with David F. Levi about his life, from being imprisoned on Robben Island at age 15 to serving as a justice on the Constitutional Court of South Africa, the nation's highest court.
  • Justice Moseneke discusses his experiences as a modern-day "founding father" who helped draft South Africa's interim constitution and oversaw the nation's first post-apartheid elections.
  • Levi and Moseneke also talk about some fundamental differences between the South African and American legal systems; Moseneke's personal and professional relationship with Nelson and Winnie Mandela; injustice, the rule of law, and South Africa's future as a democratic nation.

Justice Margaret H. Marshall

April 17, 2020 | Season 1, Episode 5 | 44:50


  • Justice Margaret H. Marshall talks with David F. Levi about her remarkable life and career, growing up under apartheid in South Africa, and becoming the first woman to hold the position of chief justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.
  • Justice Marshall reflects on her groundbreaking 2003 opinion in Goodridge vs. Department of Public Health, which made Massachusetts the first state to legalize same-sex marriage and was later cited by the U.S. Supreme Court in the landmark decision Obergefell v. Hodges.
  • Levi and Marshall also discuss the impact of technology on the courts, judicial elections vs. judicial appointments, term limits, her role as chief justice, and several Supreme Judicial Court cases, such as the 1783 decision that abolished slavery in Massachusetts (one of the first cases to do so) and recent cases involving questions of fertility and secretly recording police officers.

Judge Marjorie Rendell

December 10, 2019 | Season 1, Episode 4 | 34:10


Senior Judge Marjorie O. Rendell, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit


  • Judge Marjorie Rendell talks with David F. Levi about the Rendell Center for Civics and Civic Education and its efforts to promote judicial independence, judicial accountability, and civic education.
  • As a former first lady of Pennsylvania, Judge Rendell shares some of the opportunities and challenges of serving as both a first lady and a federal judge.
  • Judge Rendell also reflects on her life as a judge, her views on the current state of the American judiciary, the importance of the rule of law, and challenges facing our judiciary, such as access to justice.

Judge Richard Gergel

December 1, 2019 | Season 1, Episode 3 | 32:59


Judge Richard M. Gergel, U.S. District Court, District of South Carolina


  • Judge Richard M. Gergel talks to David F. Levi about his recent book, Unexampled Courage: The Blinding of Sgt. Isaac Woodard and the Awakening of President Harry S. Truman and Judge J. Waties Waring.
  • Judge Gergel tells the story of Judge Waties Waring, who served as a U.S. District Judge for South Carolina during the Civil Rights Era. Judge Gergel explains how Sgt. Isaac Woodard's case helped transform Judge Waring's views on race, leading Judge Waring to write a powerful dissent in a school desegregation case that paved the way for Brown v. Board of Education.
  • Judge Gergel and David F. Levi also discuss a fascinating ex parte communication between Judge Waring and Thurgood Marshall.

Judge Jon O. Newman

November 20, 2019 | Season 1, Episode 2 | 39:59


Senior Judge Jon O. Newman, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit


  • Judge Jon O. Newman talks with David F. Levi about his life on the bench as recounted in his recent autobiography; the qualities that make for a good judge; and the differences between district and appellate judges and courtrooms.
  • Judge Newman shares his personal judicial decision-making process and lack of judicial philosophy, saying, "There isn't a framework from which you can have a fairly good prediction of what I'm going to do on close cases."
  • Judge Newman recounts stories of the people and experiences that have impacted his career, including two of his judicial heroes, Judge Learned Hand and Judge Henry J. Friendly.

Judge Jeffrey Sutton

November 10, 2019 | Season 1, Episode 1 | 49:22


Judge Jeffrey Sutton, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit


  • Judge Jeffrey Sutton talks with David F. Levi about his book 51 Imperfect Solutions: States and the Making of American Constitutional Law and the role of state courts in protecting personal rights.
  • Judge Sutton shares his inspiration for writing the book (a specific appearance as a young lawyer before Justice Antonin Scalia at the Supreme Court) and legal innovations from the 50 state constitutions that have inspired him.
  • David F. Levi and Judge Sutton discuss several important cases that show the unique interaction between state and federal courts, including San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez, and how state courts have often done a better job than federal courts in protecting individual freedoms.