Sir John Royce: 2017 Jurist in Residence

The Dayton Law community now can claim one degree of separation from the queen of England, thanks to a weeklong visit from Sir John Royce, the 2017 Jurist in Residence.

Royce regaled law students, alumni and the Dayton legal community with stories from his years as a High Court judge, including the day in 2002 when he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II.

A limousine collected him from the Royal Courts of Justice and delivered him to Buckingham Palace, where a red-carpeted staircase led to the queen’s antechamber.

“Arise, Sir John!” the queen said, after tapping him on both shoulders with a ceremonial sword.

What followed was a 25-minute private audience with Her Majesty – but it was far from a formal meeting. “She was great; she immediately puts you at ease,” Royce said.

Before long, the talk turned to recent knee surgeries.

“How’s your knee?” Royce asked.

“Do you want to see?” the queen replied.

Before long, the two were doing leg kicks – a doctor-prescribed exercise for both -- and laughing deep belly laughs.

“It wasn’t a tiny, delicate laugh,” Royce recalled. “She has this lovely genuine laugh and just threw her head back.”

So much for the stereotype of the stuffy British royalty – or the stuffy British House of Lords, for that matter.

"There's an image that British attorneys are too serious or too formal,” said Montgomery County Juvenile Court Judge Tony Capizzi ‘79, who met Royce at the Alumni Association luncheon in his honor. “He can be as formal as necessary, but he has a fun side. It feels like it would be easy to sit in a pub with him and have a pint of beer. He’s an extremely smart individual, with an impeccable demeanor and great sense of civility. He’s my image of what a judge should be."

Dayton attorney Neil Freund said Royce is exactly the kind of speaker he envisioned in 1999 when he established an endowment to provide funding for the Jurist in Residence symposium.

“It enhances the reputation of the Law School to bring in someone with his background and speaking eloquence,” said Freund, a founding partner of Freund, Freeze and Arnold. “It’s an honor the judge was willing to come.”

Freund continues to sponsor the Jurist in Residence program because he wants to invest in the education of Dayton’s future lawyers. “I’m grateful this community has a wonderful Law School and a wonderful bench both federal and state,” he said.  “I want to give students the opportunity to see the practice of law in another country. Sir John’s visit is especially interesting since the majority of our system is based on the English system.”

Royce came to Dayton Law at the invitation of Dayton Law professor Dennis Turner, who met Royce two years ago at a dinner in Winchester, England. His barrister friend, Guy Boney, suggested Royce would be an excellent choice for the Jurist in Residence program. 

Royce’s keen wit and charisma have won legions of fans during his short time in Dayton. “Sir John has made more friends here in Dayton in a week than most people would in a lifetime,” Turner said. “Everybody loves him. If he ran for Congress, he would win the election.”

The purpose of the Jurist in Residence program, Turner said, “is to give our students exposure to some top legal minds -- the role models who are engaged in the nuts and bolts of law.” 

Royce certainly fits the bill. He has served as Presiding High Court Judge for the Western Circuit of Great Britain and on numerous occasions he has been called to sit in on the Court of Appeal, Criminal Division, which for the vast majority of criminal cases is the equivalent of our Supreme Court. He also is serving as a chairman of the Special Immigration Appeals Commission, which reviews classified intelligence material on suspected terrorists and decides whether the British Home Secretary is justified in deporting, refusing entry, or denying naturalization of those individuals. 

“It has been an eye-opener to see the terrorist attacks prevented and the plots snuffed out,” he said.

Through his chairmanship he has gained insight into the current global immigration crisis and the ways that governments can achieve the proper balance between national security and human rights. He said that while terrorism poses a real threat, he fears a knee-jerk reaction could diminish the very qualities that have contributed to the greatness of the United States and Great Britain.

“The U.S. has thrived on encouraging people to come here and to work,” he said. “It has given rise to quite a rich culture based on religious freedom and freedom of expression.”

In Great Britain, too, immigrants have contributed immensely to the economy, he said: “We are a pretty tolerant country, but after Brexit there was an unpleasant wave of abuse of immigrants. The majority of the country was embarrassed by the way we behaved.”

Royce came to Dayton directly from Sydney, Australia, where he and his wife Mary were visiting their daughter Anne and welcoming their first grandchild, Robert.

Jet lag didn’t slow him down in the least. Royce, 72, kept a brisk pace throughout his week in Dayton beginning Feb. 17. He served as a guest lecturer in many Law School classes and gave a luncheon presentation to all law students in the Atrium, speaking about his most notorious cases. He also met with alumni, federal and Montgomery County judges, other UD professors and administrators and local dignitaries, including Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley.

“He has an amazing work ethic at 72,” Capizzi said. “He is a great role model for young attorneys and students who want to work at that level. You can get the degree, and you can get the appointment, but you won’t progress unless you do the work that is necessary.”

 Royce even became a newly-minted Flyers fan, attending his first basketball game and celebrating the team’s 83-70 victory over George Mason University.

He was even more impressed with the Law School itself. “Everyone has been delightfully welcoming,” he said. “It’s a great campus, and the professors and teachers are right on the ball. The students have asked very interesting questions. You have a jolly good setup here.”

-- Mary McCarty

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