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Judge Marc Hammer (Business Administration), left, serves on the faculty at St. Norbert. Fittingly, he also facilitates SNC’s honor code, alongside Gabe Licht (Business Administration), right.

SNC Students Who Violate the Honor Code Go Up Before the Judge!

The Hon. Marc Hammer (Business Administration), a Brown County circuit court judge, has been teaching business law, media law and trial advocacy at SNC since 1995, and he often serves as advisor to pre-law students. SNC’s 2019 Educator of the Year, he also was recently named as the facilitator for the college’s Academic Honor Code. Melanie (Radzicki) McManus ’83 sat down with Hammer to talk about his roles new and old.

Q. We’re lucky to have a working judge on our faculty! How did you come to join St. Norbert?
A. In the fall of 1995, the college needed a person to teach the business law section because the individual who had taught it for eons needed to take a sabbatical. There was no one internally qualified to do it, so they reached out to their lawyers at Leibmann, Conway, Olejniczak & Jerry. The firm said, “Well, we have a new lawyer who taught that class before” – me – so I came and taught the class. I was one of the first adjuncts at SNC who wasn’t affiliated with the Norbertines, and the college was concerned about whether I would work out. But the students liked having an instructor who did what he was teaching. So one semester turned into two, and two turned into years, and years turned into decades.

Q. You’re a busy man. Do you find your twin professions complement one another?
A. Teaching allows me to refresh myself in areas of the law I don’t often see on the bench. I don’t often see major First Amendment free-speech cases, for example, but to teach that material I need to know current case law and the current status of free-speech laws in dispute across the country. Knowing this makes me a better judge.

Teaching also gives me better perspective. As a circuit court judge, I have a good understanding of how more mature adults will often interact. But being able to talk to young adults, and listen while they provide answers, gives me a better understanding of that age group. And that’s helpful. Because I always have to think about how my decisions affect the entire community, and students are part of the community.

Very, very recently, I have been given a full course load. This semester, I’m teaching two sections of business law and one section of media law. I’m also team-teaching our trial advocacy class. Next semester, I won’t be teaching media law, but I’ll have two brand new sections of business law and trial advocacy.

Q. This year you’re presiding in a different kind of court: You’re serving as facilitator of the Academic Honor Code, which requires students to perform honestly on all tests and assignments.
A. One of the things that is important to me is to ensure that both students and faculty understand that the Academic Honor Code is part of an educational process. I want to ensure everyone understands what the process is and how it works, and ensure that everyone is treated fairly.

Students need to understand there are expectations in every organization you want to participate in. If you decide to come to St. Norbert, you need to know St. Norbert is set up under communio, which requires honesty, commitment and faith. The Honor Code is the tool that allows students to measure their own integrity in the community they decided to join – that of St. Norbert.

From what I’ve seen so far, more often than not Honor Code concerns come up with younger students who are not used to abiding by a code of conduct set out by an educational institution. The most common concern appears to be duplicating others’ work. These younger folks learn plagiarism has a wide definition. It’s not just copying something word-for-word.

Q. Are students overawed by the prospect of “coming up before the judge”?
A. For a lot of people, this whole concept of an Honor Code is new, very foreign and very frightening. I hope people will not be fearful or frightened by the Honor Code, but recognize that we have it so the college can judge students on their own capabilities, their own work, and not on the work of others. The Honor Code encourages students to have the fullest experience they can have at our school. We want to guide them so they have their own experience, and not the experience of others.

Q. You’re also involved in the pre-law program at SNC. Does that attract a lot of interest?
A. The numbers are substantially increasing. First, we have a dedicated pre-law advisor, Charles Jacobs (Political Science), who is extremely active in providing information to students, following up, etc. Second, St. Norbert has developed the 3+3 partnership program with Marquette University Law School. That has driven pre-law students to come to St. Norbert. [The 3+3 program allows students to apply to Marquette’s law school during their junior year. If admitted, they move directly into the law program the following year.]

What’s really enjoyable for me is to find students who have the writing skills and intellectual capacity for law school, then encourage them to consider it. And I’ve had real luck. I’ve had four students during the last 10 years who said, “Really?” I said, “Do yourself a favor and take the LSAT. See what your capacity really is.” Then they took the test, did phenomenally and went to law school. That’s really rewarding for me – to help students who didn’t have law school on the horizon see it as a possibility.

Q. So things are going well?
A. I have the two greatest jobs in the world. I know it sounds so cliché, but I don’t know anybody who gets to do two things they really enjoy doing, which for me is being a judge in my own county, then teaching at a really, really good private school that’s really respected and turns out phenomenal students.

Dec. 17, 2020