A Tradition of Service – Judge J. Rich Leonard

Dean J. Rich Leonard of Campbell Law School

Editor’s Note:  Judge Leonard has been appointed as the next dean of Campbell’s School of Law, effective July 15, 2013.  The Campbell Law Observer and the Campbell Law Review are pleased to honor our new dean, Judge Rich Leonard, with the following article by Chief Judge Doub. 

None of us were greatly surprised at the opportunity to become Dean of the Campbell Law School recently afforded to Judge J. Rich Leonard.  What a great opportunity and what a perfect fit for such a talented man.  We were perhaps surprised that his announced departure from the bench came prior to his being eligible for judicial retirement.  Judge Leonard has often said at our Christmas Special sessions of court, that all of us as court employees are only entrusted with these duties for a time, and during the terms of our service, we work hard and give our judicial responsibilities our best efforts.  And when our time to leave comes, there will be other talented folks who then will be entrusted with these positions.  Some time over the next year, a new bankruptcy judge will take the position previously held by Judge Leonard, and that new judge will begin his or her service in one of these entrusted positions.  But for many of us, it will be hard to imagine work at our court going on without Judge Leonard being a big part of what we do and accomplish each and every day.

Now when Judge Leonard reads this, he will say the operations and leadership of our court going forward will be fine.  We have talented and committed people who will overcome the obstacles budget cuts place in our path.  And when necessary, we will rise to the occasion presented us.  But our ability to do so in the future has in large measure been influenced by the tradition of service and leadership, both locally and nationally, of Judge Leonard.

Rich Leonard’s service to the federal judiciary began some 37 years ago when he served as law clerk to the Honorable Franklin Dupree.  His tenure as Clerk of the U. S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina and Magistrate Judge followed.  In 1992, he was appointed United States Bankruptcy Judge to fill the position previously held by Judge Thomas M. Moore.  Almost immediately, he became involved in educational programs at the Federal Judicial Center, and through the years provided great leadership in development and updates regarding privacy issues with electronic filing and preparation for the next generation of CM/ECF.   He was an integral part of the leadership that developed the “CourtSpeak” program, which provides direct access to audio hearings on the court dockets, and is presently being implemented nationally.  While accomplishing all this, for his love of the law and for students, he found time to teach at North Carolina Central Law School, UNC School of Law, and the Campbell School of Law.

His record of service has been duly and properly recognized by the American Bar Association as the 2011 recipient of the Robert B. Yegge Award for Outstanding Contribution to Judicial Administration.    Campbell Law’s Delta Theta Phi Fraternity recently presented Judge Leonard with the Judge Robinson O. Everett Award for Legal Excellence.  In 1992, he was awarded the Administrative Office of the Court Director’s Award for Outstanding Leadership in the Federal Judiciary, and since 2011, Judge Leonard has served as Editor in Chief of the American Bankruptcy Law Journal.  For nearly a decade in the 1990’s, Judge Leonard literally served as a judicial ambassador to judiciaries of developing countries, particularly in Africa.  He served on the Board of Governors of the National Conference of Bankruptcy Judges, and served as a Vice-President of the North Carolina Bar Association.  He presently serves as a Fellow of the American College of Bankruptcy.

As my colleague for the last seven years, and having practiced bankruptcy law before him for fifteen years prior to my appointment, I have always appreciated Judge Leonard’s advice and experience, and his commitment to the rule of law and his dispensation of justice from the bench.  As a new judge, and as a new Chief Judge shortly after my appointment, Judge Leonard has always been available to provide me with his best advice and opinions on issues our court has faced.   I thank him for his excellent leadership and experienced and helpful advice.

Just two weeks prior to his appointment as Dean at Campbell, Judge Leonard’s beloved father, J. W. Leonard, was laid to rest after 87 years living a Christian life devoted to his family, to God and his church, and to his neighbors and community.  In his eulogy to his father, Judge Leonard spoke of the virtues his father extolled of honesty, thrift, hard work, love of family and friends and commitment to a life of Christian service.  Clearly, Judge Leonard’s record of experience, accomplishment, and servant leadership became reality because of the love and dedication of his loving father and mother, who clearly taught their children that it was more blessed to develop and give of your talents, than to receive; and to love your neighbor as yourself.  Judge Leonard has set a great example of service to others and giving of your talents that we all can aspire to reach.

As we say thank you and best wishes to our dear friend Rich Leonard, our loss will be Campbell School of Law’s  great gain.   Godspeed Rich Leonard.  God has prepared you well for this new opportunity as Dean at Campbell Law School and for all the challenges, opportunities, and great contributions you will make in this new position.