Judge Ellen Venzer, the University of Miami’s Judge-in-Residence, will be launching a special lecture series starting in September. The free year-long program of evening lectures is open to the entire UM community and includes expert-led discussions on various legal issues in the news.
“The law impacts everyone,” Venzer said. “Whether you are an undergraduate or a first-year law student, legal policies affects us all. The lecture series is an effort to engage not only students but also faculty in real discussions about our current legal system. The UM community should be encouraged to talk about where the system is going and the different outcomes that may follow.”
By participating in the series, Venzer said she wants the program to help pave future career paths for curious Canes and provide an opportunity for them to launch the beginning of their professional lives.
Venzer is a 1987 alumnus from the UM School of Law, receiving her law degree three years after earning an undergraduate degree in business administration. After graduating, Venzer was a practicing trial lawyer specializing in lender liability, director and officer liability and securities litigation. She has presided over felony criminal circuit court cases since 2004, when then-governor Jeb Bush appointed her to the position.
Currently, Venzer teaches undergraduate and law school classes focusing on criminal justice, sentencing and children’s law.
“I have had many UM students over the years who have sat on the bench with me and they have told me that it is a very moving experience,” Venzer said. “To be able to bring the law of our land into this program will hopefully educate and inspire others about the functionality of our legal system.”
Building upon Venzer’s long history of teaching and mentorship, she and several interns designed the Judge-in-Residence program to be broken down into two main parts: Dinner & Dialogues Lecture Series and a one-on-one discussion.
The Dinner & Dialogues Lecture Series part will host a catalogue of expert speakers to give presentations and facilitate discussion amongst students. Afterwards, students are able to have dinner with each speaker and partake in more intimate discussions.
Dinners will be held in the residences of UM residential faculty, and 20-50 students are expected to attend each meeting.
“One of many speakers that I am planning on speaking in the lecture series is the head of the ACLU,” Venzer said. “I want the community to know that this series is an informal discussion, I want people to feel comfortable to share their perspectives on any issue. I want both students and faculty members to have the opportunity to ask questions that they would normally not be able to ask.”
In the second part of each event, students will have an individualized session with Venzer in which they ask questions and discuss any topic.
“I think sometimes judges and other leaders are not as accessible, the second part of the course really encourages students to have their voices heard and ask questions to a professional directly in the field,” Venzer said.
From navigating law school applications or reflecting on current events, students are given free range during this personalized session.
“It’s important to get students to have one-on-one conversations because that’s really where the learning happens. Students need to engage in dialogue rather than just being lectured to,” Venzer said.
This component of the series pays homage to the original Judge-in-Residential structure, which consisted of Judge Venzer and a handful of curious students gathered together in Richter Library.
“It’s important that students understand that judges are people just like everyone else,” Venzer said. “They have families, they have lives, they have likes and dislikes. I think it’s really important for the purposes of this lecture to break down that formal barrier so we can reach the heart of the discussion.”