John Martinez joined the faculty at the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law in 1984, after earning his J.D. at Columbia University in 1976. Prior to entering academia, he practiced environmental litigation as a California Deputy Attorney General, served as Legal Counsel to the California Health and Welfare Agency, and was Deputy Director of the California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs. At the College of Law, he taught property law, land use regulation, real estate transactions, a takings seminar, and state and local government law.
In spring 2015, Martinez announced his retirement. In the interview below, he reflects on more than 30 years of teaching, describes how legal education changed during that period, and praises the college’s efforts to tie “the study of law to the practice of law.”
Prior to teaching, your background was with government agencies in the state of California. I guess that prompts a two-part question. First, was teaching (and the academic environment in general) different than what you expected?
Teaching was the realization of my dream to be in a position to explore the law from different angles and to help students understand and critically evaluate all perspectives.
And second, how did your background in practice affect your approach once you entered academia?
My background in practice helped me see the differences between law in theory and law in practice.
Approaching retirement, do you have any sense of your legacy as an educator, and as a scholar? For example, which of your treatises do you believe is most significant?
Both my local government law treatise and my government takings treatise have helped me make a contribution to the understanding of the law in each of those fields. Each treatise has been cited numerous times over the years by courts and scholars.
You were an associate dean at the College from 1994 to 1998. Which of your accomplishment in that role are you most proud of?
I helped shape the curriculum of the law school in my role as academic dean through the assignment of courses to our law professors, who were always willing to step in and take up new assignments. Of course, the law school’s curriculum has continuously evolved since my tenure as associate dean.
What do you believe legal education in general and the College of Law in particular are doing well with regard to preparing students to practice. Conversely, what could it do differently or better?
The law school has embarked on an ambitious effort to tie the study of law to the practice of law. Still, we could always spend more time teaching the art and skill of legal writing and research, because an attorney can never be too good at finding the law and using it proficiently.
What has changed most about teaching since you started at the College of Law in the mid-1980s?
Teaching at the law school has incorporated modern technology very effectively. When I started at the law school, only the administrative assistants had computer-like word processors called “wangs.” Then we launched the law school network on what I believe was a mere 32 megabyte server. Today, many of our law professors have become quite proficient at the seamless integration of technology into their teaching.
Do you have any goals post-retirement?
I will continue to work on my treatises and also will write a law review article from time to time. After a two-year sojourn around the world, my wife Karen and I will settle into one of our condos on Kauai. We plan to spend a lot of time walking along the beach at Poipu.
And finally, anything else you would like to add?
I am very proud of the law school and the contribution it made to my growth as a scholar, teacher and administrator. I would like to express my deepest thanks to my mentors—the late Professor John Flynn and Professor Wayne McCormack—for the encouragement and support they gave me throughout my career at the school. I look forward to keeping in touch with all the people at the law school as the years go by.