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Appealing cases: William F. Dressel '63

  Mary Boone  

Judge William Dressel ’63 went into private practice after earning his juris doctorate from the University of Denver Law School. In July 1978, he was appointed a judge in Colorado’s 8th Judicial District; he was retained in 1980, 1986, 1992, and 1998 general elections.

Judge Dressel has been admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of the State of Colorado, 10th Circuit, and the U.S. Supreme Court. Hehas been president of the Colorado District Judges’ Association and chair of the Colorado Trial Judges’ Council, which represents both district and county judges.

He is past chair of the National Conference of State Trial Judges. In 1991, Judge Dressel was appointed by Colorado Chief Justice Luis Rovira to be the Judicial Department’s representative on the Colorado Legislature’s Criminal Justice Commission and was reappointed to a second term in 1993. He’s the principal author of the Trial Management Standards adopted by the American Bar Association House of Delegates in 1992.

Judge Dressel taught law courses at the University of Denver. He’s been a consultant to the National Center for State Courts, the Center for Effective Public Policy, the Justice Management Institute, and is a member of the Colorado Judicial Faculty.

He served as a faculty member of The National Judicial College from 1998 to 1993, when he was appointed to its board of trustees. He became president of the college in November 2000.

In 1998, Judge Dressel received the Justice Management’s Ernest C. Friesen Award of Excellence in recognition of his vision, leadership, and sustained commitment to the achievement of excellence in the administration of justice. He and his wife, Angela, live in Reno. They have five grown children: Amy D essel ’90, Carrie Jo, Peggy, Bill, and Hunter.

The National Judicial College
After retiring from the bench, Judge Dressel became president of The National Judicial College, a not-for-profit organization based in Reno, Nev. The college’s mission is to advance justice through judicial education.

“Being a judge is one of the most demanding careers there is,” he says. “I spent 20 years making decisions that affected people in the most personal ways possible. I took kids away from parents. I took away people’s property. I put people in prison. I was making some really tough decisions.

“For me, there came a time when I gave all I could and I needed to move onto the next phase of my career. I can’t think of a better place than The National Judicial College to end my working life.”

The National Judicial College was formed in 1963 by a commission of the American Bar Association. The need for judicial education was evident from the start: more than 300 judges applied for 83 available seats.

Over the past four decades, the college has issued 58,000 certificates of completion to judges from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. Territories. More than 2,000 foreign judges from about 150 countries have received training at the college, as have American Indian tribal judges, military judges, and court administrators.

Most classes last one to two weeks and are taught on site. Some distance learning programs also are available. The school now offers more than 50 courses on topics ranging from general juris diction and special courts for new judges to pharmacology and sentencing. The National Judicial College staff also works to develop courses for other entities educating those in the legal profession.

The college houses a 75,000 volume law library, technology enhanced classrooms, a state of the art model courtroom, a computer lab, and offices of the Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Courts and Media.

“We’re trying to prepare judges for today’s and tomorrow’s challenges,” says Judge Dressel. “We teach judges things like how to use computers in the courtroom, how to be media friendly, how to deal with the aging population in court, and special considerations involved when juveniles are charged as adults.”

As president of the college, Judge Dressel oversees 56 staff members and about 300 volunteer instructors. He teaches a couple of courses each year, but spends most of his time courting donors, representing the college, and speaking to judicial organizations across the country.

“For me, interacting with the judiciary, hearing their concerns, and knowing I can be part of the solution is the best part of this job,” he says.

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