July 17, 2005: Headlines: COS - Ethiopia: Jurisprudence: AZ Central.com: Judge William Canby served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ethiopia in the early 1960s

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Ethiopia: Peace Corps Ethiopia : The Peace Corps in Ethiopia: July 17, 2005: Headlines: COS - Ethiopia: Jurisprudence: AZ Central.com: Judge William Canby served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ethiopia in the early 1960s

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Judge William Canby served as a Peace Corps Staff Member in Ethiopia in the early 1960s

Judge William Canby served as a Peace Corps Staff Member in Ethiopia in the early 1960s

"I had begun my practice as a lawyer," Canby reflects, "and I figured I should do something more expansive than stay in St. Paul and practice law for the next 40 years."

Judge William Canby served as a Peace Corps Staff Member in Ethiopia in the early 1960s

Judge usually there for the start of big things

Claire Bush

Special for The

Jul. 17, 2005 12:00 AM

Judge William Canby, who sits on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, seems to have a knack for showing up when things are just getting started.

In the early 1960s, John F. Kennedy was president, and a newly formed program called the Peace Corps was sending the country's finest lawyers, doctors and educators overseas in a mission of global unity.

"I had begun my practice as a lawyer," Canby reflects, "and I figured I should do something more expansive than stay in St. Paul and practice law for the next 40 years."

Canby traveled to Washington, where he was interviewed and chosen for an assignment in Africa.

"When I first got the call, I was told to pack my bags, because we were headed for northern Nigeria," Canby said. "I didn't know anything about that part of the world, so I bought some books and started reading up."

Almost immediately another call came from Washington.

"This time they said I was going to Ethiopia instead," Canby said. "I took the Nigeria books back and started reading up on Ethiopia."

His five years in Ethiopia and later Uganda were meaningful on many levels, Canby says.

"Ethiopia was one of the most exotic places in the whole world," he said. "Africa was in a period of optimism at that time that would be hard to understand today, given the current political and economic situation. Many of the countries in Africa had just become independent."

Returning to the United States, Canby made another detour in his career when he was offered the position of law professor at Arizona State University's new law school.

"When I came here the school had been open a month," Canby said. "I was one of the original faculty members."

Shortly after Canby arrived, representatives of the Bureau of Indian Affairs came to visit.

"They wanted to start training sessions for the tribal judges on the reservation," Canby said. "Since I was the only instructor there, I was chosen for the job."

Finding that no easily referenced handbook was available on Indian law, Canby wrote American Indian Laws in a Nutshell.

"When I first was approached about writing the book, we were wondering if it would sell enough to justify an initial run, which was about 3,500 copies," Canby said. "I guess they didn't have any trouble selling that many."

The widely referenced book is now in its fourth printing.

Indian law has expanded substantially in the past 25 years, according to Canby.

"With the advent of casino gaming and an increase in business on the reservations, there's a great deal more interest in the area," he added.

Although Canby's training and experience up to that point had been in constitutional, not Indian, law, "it often happens that professors fall into these niches," he said.

Canby left ASU to become a judge on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 1980.

Last month, colleagues and staff celebrated Canby's 25 years on the bench with an event in San Francisco.

"They've been eventful years," Canby said. "The practice of law has changed tremendously in that time."

For Canby as well as the two dozen other judges on the 9th Circuit, changes in the law have translated into an ever-increasing caseload.

"The caseload is becoming crushing," Canby said, "due to the increased level of enforcement and larger number of people coming through the Arizona border from Mexico."

Twenty-five years ago, "we didn't see such a large number of people applying for asylum in this country," he said.

Judge Michael Hawkins has been a colleague of Canby's for a decade, but their relationship began as teacher and student, when Hawkins was enrolled in ASU's law school.

"I hope Bill never retires," Hawkins said. "He's just about the ideal circuit judge.

He's smart, a terrific writer and has one of those minds like a vise. He can grip an idea and get the context of it every time."

Now in his mid-70s, Canby still runs two to three miles each morning before starting his day at the office. On a recent trip to Wales, he says, "I was able to run five miles each day; the weather was perfect for it."

The judge plans to continue his practice "as long as I can stay on top of my game."

He has advised younger colleagues "that when I start agreeing with them on everything, it's time for me to go."

That probably won't be for a while. With his trademark wide grin under a thatch of sandy-colored hair, Canby leans forward and confides, "I just bought a new video to teach myself calculus. I decided it was about time I learned it."

He leaned back and continued, "So far, I haven't had to fight anyone else at home over wanting to watch it."

When this story was posted in July 2005, this was on the front page of PCOL:

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Story Source: AZ Central.com

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