News Release: Law, Religion and Ethics

Dec. 9,  2010

Judge Robert J. Castellani to Join Emory's Law and Religion Center

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DeKalb County Superior Court Judge Robert J. Castellani, who retires from the bench in December after more than 26 years of service, joins Emory University’s Center for the Study of Law and Religion (CSLR) as Spruill Family Senior Fellow in Law and Religion Jan. 1.

A 1966 honors graduate of Emory Law, Castellani plans to research how the U.S. legal system can better handle the increasingly prevalent and complex issues of how religious and spiritual values influence criminal and civil law decisions. He also will teach legal ethics to second- and third-year law students.

“For many years I have admired the work of CSLR, which studies how the interaction of law and religion shapes our society,” says Castellani. “The prevailing notion in our country that religion has no place in law can be, in my opinion, an impediment to real justice. In most difficult cases, recognition of core values will assist in resolving the dispute. I wish to consider more deeply how that recognition can occur in today's legal system.” 

“Judge Castellani brings to our center a quarter-century of judicial wisdom plus another two decades of exceptional trial experience as a law firm partner, assistant attorney general of Georgia, first assistant U.S. attorney, and U.S. magistrate,” says John Witte, Jr., Jonas Robitscher Professor of Law, Alonzo L. McDonald Family Foundation Distinguished Professor and CSLR director. “We are honored to have his time and his talents focused on some of the most critical issues of law and religion facing our court system today.”

Castellani will continue to serve DeKalb County as a senior judge and assist in the county’s drug court, a program he started in 2002 that has helped more than 300 people reclaim their lives from drug addiction.

From drug court to the basketball court, Castellani is a formidable force. His prestigious legal career includes trying cases and arguing appeals in all levels of state and federal courts, including oral argument in the U.S. Supreme Court; serving as both prosecutor and defense counsel in criminal cases; and trying all sorts of civil cases, including personal injury, domestic relations and business disputes. He also has coached boys and girls basketball and soccer, served as a church elder, volunteers for service projects in his community and even finds time for tai chi.

But what Castellani enjoys most is learning (“the happiest part of my day is getting up at 5 a.m. to read a book of non-fiction”), and he thinks “the best way to learn is to be a teacher,” which he’s also done as an Emory Law adjunct professor.

As a teacher of ethics who has spent the large part of 45 years in a courtroom, he hopes to train Emory Law students to be mindful of the “landmines that lie ahead” in their legal careers. “Anyone can read the rules and pass the tests, but in a real-life situation when there are competing interests and the rules are in conflict, they won’t know what to do and can make mistakes. I want to prepare them to make the best choices,” he says.

Reflection and writing also are on the horizon for Castellani during his time with CSLR. “It will be a great place for me to change gears and connect with the world in a whole new way.”

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