Gaveliers mascots
Paws for the Gaveliers’ cause; majority rejects gill-ty plea for mascot

By NJC Intern - Jenna Delacruz

It’s the bear, by a clear majority. A bear to be called Bearister.

January’s Question of the Month* asked alumni to choose a mascot and come up with a name for the character in advance of the inaugural season of NJC Gaveliers athletics. 

The choices, seen again here, were a cartoon bear swinging a gavel or a hammerhead shark character with a gavel-shaped head.

About 300 NJC alumni weighed in, and the bear won with nearly 64 percent of the vote.

The NJC Athletics Department chose the winning character name from a group of finalists that included Clawdius (submitted by Judge Ian Wheeles of the Superior Court of Anchorage, Alaska), Whumper (Judge Adam Torem of the Washington Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals), Learned Paw (anonymous) and Atticus (Judge Cole Maier of the Division 2, 25th Circuit of the Kentucky Court of Justice).

The winning entry, Bearister, came from an alumnus and faculty member who wishes to remain anonymous but will still pocket the prize, a $100 digital gift certificate to The NJC Shop.

Among the 133 judges who left comments, there were strong arguments for and against both characters – and shark fans, don’t despair. Although the bear won the election, the College plans to make both Bearister and the shark character available on Gaveliers items at The NJC Shop.

In the voting, many NJC alumni appeared to rule out the shark because of its connotation of an unscrupulous lawyer.

“Attorneys have a bad enough reputation as sharks,” wrote Judge Steve Smith of Texas’s 10th Court of Appeals, apparently not wanting that reputation to rub off on judges.

But many others cheered for the shark. In fact, one of the contest judges’ favorite name suggestions, in a losing cause, was “Hammer-abi” (Judge Paul Tucker, 25th Judicial District Court of Virginia) or Hammurabi (Air Force Deputy Chief Judge Natalie Richardson).

Another shark fan, Judge Chris Costa of the District of Columbia Office of Administrative Hearings, wrote: “What better mascot is there to reflect the teeming sea life in (the) desert of Reno, Nevada? [Insert sarcasm alarm here]…. There is only one reasonable choice for all of the Gavelheads who (will) travel from state to state to root on their Gaveliers … Gavelhead shark.”

In her argument for the undersea character, Judge Dorothy Chou Proudfoot at the San Francisco Rent Board quoted the Wikipedia entry for hammerhead sharks:

“1. ‘Unlike most sharks, some hammerhead species will congregate and swim in large schools during the day; and 2. ‘Among Torres Strait Islanders, the hammerhead shark … is associated with law and order.’ The hammerhead shark, therefore, seems particularly suitable as a mascot for a judicial college.”

A few judges criticized the bear design as looking more like a mouse or hamster, but others saluted the bear symbolism.

“Bears are fierce when they need to be but playful at leisure, like judges,” wrote Clackamas County (Oregon) Judge Susie Norby.

An anonymous judge also wrote, “I like bears. Sometimes I like to hibernate a little on a decision before I announce it to give the parties time to resolve it on their own.”

A few voters pointed out that the NJC consistently teaches that good judges use their gavels sparingly, if at all.

 “The shark is a gavel, so he probably does not enjoy having his head beaten,” wrote Judge Corey Moon of the Lewis County (Missouri) Circuit Court. “His teeth also may scare the parties into following appropriate courtroom decorum and the rules of evidence. Put a black robe on him, and he is unbeatable.”

Like Judge Moon, some judges saw one or both characters as male gendered. However, the Athletics Department specifically sought animal mascot options to avoid the stereotype of a male judge. Neither design was intended to be perceived as being of any particular gender.

* Each month the College emails an informal, non-scientific one-question survey to its more than 12,000 judicial alumni in the United States and abroad. The results, summarized in the NJC’s Judicial Edge Today, are not intended to be characterized as conclusive research findings. The NJC is a nonpartisan, nonpolitical organization and these monthly polls are designed to engage our alumni in thought-provoking dialogue.

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