The Voice of Experience

When Professor Mark Rahdert speaks, it is with the voice of experience. The veteran law professor, who clerked for both Associate Justice Harry A. Blackmun of the Supreme Court of the United States and Judge Murray I. Gurfein of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit before becoming a litigator at Dechert Price & Rhoads in Philadelphia, is sought after as a national authority on constitutional law, the Supreme Court, tort reform, and insurance issues. But since joining the Temple Law faculty in 1984, he has had another, more pressing responsibility: to introduce first year law students to the fundamentals of their newly chosen profession. It is a role he approaches with delight.

“It’s very rewarding,” Rahdert explains. “From the beginning, I’ve always enjoyed the first year students. There’s an enthusiasm, a positive classroom atmosphere, that I find inspiring.” Rahdert finds it “particularly satisfying to watch my students progress, from beginners struggling to understand basic concepts, to students who are really in command of what the law is all about.”

Rahdert is in a very good position to contribute to that transformation. As a professor who teaches both Torts and Constitutional Law, he introduces first year students to some of the most important ideas in our law-based society. Effectively communicating these ideas is so important to Rahdert that he’s co-written Torts: Cases and Problems, a textbook for use in law school classrooms all over the country. In Rahdert’s own Torts classroom, students come to understand that despite often arcane terminology, Torts is fundamentally about fairness and what we should reasonably expect in a crowded and sometimes dangerous society. “When students realize that, they begin to see that their own life experiences give them something valuable to contribute to the discussion,” Rahdert explains. “And class participation in my Constitutional Law classes can become quite lively, as students engage in a vigorous exchange of ideas and perspectives on a wide range of pressing social issues. We have fun.”

One of the reasons why such exchanges are possible at Temple is the school’s strong commitment to diversity along many dimensions. According to Rahdert, the results are “noticeable and real. Here at Temple, the students and faculty alike truly value diversity and aim to get value from it. As a result, people actively seek out opportunities to share their experiences and to learn from the experiences of those around them.” But the benefits don’t stop there. Rahdert, like many Temple Law professors, appreciates that for many students, “being here represents a real accomplishment, and often more than a little personal sacrifice. As a result, they are acutely conscious of the learning opportunities they have, and determined to get the most out of them. They develop a sense of common purpose that is exciting.”

Of course, even the most dedicated classroom teachers harbor intellectual and scholarly pursuits that go beyond the first year law curriculum. So it comes as no surprise that Rahdert’s curriculum vitae includes two books and a host of articles on constitutional jurisprudence, the Supreme Court, executive power, tort reform, insurance and related questions. Rahdert’s scholarship on freedom of expression, equality, the limits of executive power, and the role of the Supreme Court has garnered national acclaim. While it makes sense that a former Supreme Court clerk would continue to find constitutional issues engaging, Rahdert acknowledges that his interest runs deeper. “Constitutional law is a body of law for which the Supreme Court is uniquely responsible,” he explains. “The Justices are charged with interpreting, clarifying, and shaping our laws when they intersect with the principles of our Constitution. In a democratic law-based society, that’s an awesome responsibility, and one worth following closely.”

Temple Law students who study with Professor Mark Rahdert in their first year courses learn quickly to recognize that the man at the front of the classroom speaks with the voice of experience. They learn almost as quickly that in his classroom, their own experiences are equally valued. As a result, generations of Temple Law students have embraced the foundations of our legal system even as they take responsibility for ensuring its future. And as they do, Professor Mark Rahdert is there to encourage and assist them to make the most of their opportunities.