No member of the American Judges Association has had the impact on the organization as Judge Steve Leben. While he will continue to be a member and make contributions to the judiciary, today marks his last day as a judge. Later this summer he will begin a new chapter of his career as a law school faculty member at at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law.
Court Review is the premier publication for judges in the United States and Canada. Yes, the numerous authors made significant contributions with their submissions, but it was Steve’s leadership role as the editor that brought it all together. Steve was a journalism major and while one might speculate he assumed this role to vicariously life the life of a journalist, editor of Court Review was a task that required him to give countless hours with very little praise or thanks. But there was more.
Steve served as an officer, President and most recently as the Chair of the Budget Committee. It was during his tenure as President that the American Judges Association adopted its first White Paper on Procedural Fairness. It was Steve’s idea to trademark the logo “Voice of the Judiciary,” but logos without substance are meaningless. Steve has been, throughout his career, a person of substance. Later, Steve would co-found the Procedural Fairness web site, http://www.proceduralfairness.org. Yale Professor Tom Tyler, who is the academic “parent” of procedural fairness, said of those efforts, “(the) White Paper and the California Initiative put the idea of procedural justice on the map in legal settings. And the website at the NCSC has kept it moving forward. The fact that Steve was honored at the USSC (United States Supreme Court when he received the Rehnquist Award) seems very fitting and reflects the high esteem with which your efforts are held in the state court system. When I look at the NCSC website today I see efforts all over the states.”
Throughout our careers, each of us has known people who made a difference and that is what Steve did. We should not think of his decision to leave the bench as a sad day for the judiciary. It is not. Steve Leben will continue to make a difference.