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After 22 years of watching lawyers wrangle and clients squabble, U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel has made a hobby out of studying why people choose to make a federal case out of some disagreements. This fall, Fogel — who sits on the Northern District of California bench — put his pastime to use with a seminar at Stanford Law School on the reasons people file suit. His seminar, “The Psychology of Litigation: Practical and Ethical Implications for Lawyers,” drew a crowd of 22 students and wrapped up Tuesday. Fogel, who has spent five years on the federal bench after 17 as a state judge in Santa Clara County, pitched the idea to his alma mater. He said he wanted to fill a gap he sees in legal education — training budding lawyers to consider what might be motivating clients besides the underlying merits of a case. That additional insight could help in settling cases or developing legal strategies, Fogel said. “The traditional framework for thinking about litigation is incomplete,” Fogel said. “We have a rights model and rights are very important � but it leaves out the human dimension. “We’re not just adjudicating rights,” he said. “We’re trying to help people make decisions that affect their lives.” Fogel starting thinking about motivation while watching emotional family disputes during four years on the family court bench in Santa Clara County. Complex corporate fights aren’t necessarily less emotional because they lack child custody battles or property fights, Fogel said. Lawyers, he said, can be used to launch irrational and destructive litigation if they fail to identify the emotional reasons a client files a lawsuit. Fogel said teaching students was a challenge compared to his experiences teaching lawyers and other judges. He said he had to force himself to be more theoretical, but he was cheered by his experience. He hopes to tweak his material and continue teaching at Stanford in future semesters. One of his students, Christopher Viapiano, a second-year Stanford student, gave Fogel high marks as an instructor. Viapiano said Fogel has been calm and insightful, giving guidance and making suggestions but letting the students draw their own conclusions. “I thought it would be a great way to get a perspective that one rarely has access to — that of a judge who hears cases litigated through trial,” Viapiano said. “It’s been a learning experience for everyone.”

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