Every student knows the difference between a good teacher and a bad one, but not every student appreciates a good one.

That's because a good teacher is demanding and a bad one usually is not, which means you can get a good grade from a bad teacher without much effort. You may not learn much, but you'll get the grade. For some students, that's all that counts.

Every lawyer knows the difference between a good judge and a bad judge, too, but not every attorney appreciates a good one for the same reason. A bad judge usually isn't as demanding, and a lawyer can win a case with a bad judge without much effort. Justice may not be served, but if the settlement is big enough, the counting seems to be all that matters.

U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack is a demanding judge, and a good one. She showed just how demanding she was in 2005 when she exposed the flimsy evidence supporting 10,000 silicosis claims, chastised the attorneys and doctors responsible for generating them, and sent the claims back to the state courts of origin.

Most of the claims were based on X-ray screenings performed by a company founded by a junior college dropout. Neither he nor his employees had any medical training.

A doctor had "diagnosed" hundreds of plaintiffs without taking occupational or medical histories, without physically examining them, and without reading their X-rays or speaking to them or their physicians. That doctor spent less than four minutes on each evaluation.

"These diagnoses were about litigation rather than health care," Judge Jack concluded. "It is apparent that truth and justice had very little to do with these diagnoses. . . . [They] were driven neither by health nor justice: they were manufactured for money."

We were sad to hear that Judge Jack plans to retire next June, after 17 years on the federal bench, but heartened to learn that she'll continue to hear cases as a senior judge.

It is important to note the work of good judges and to thank them for their service to the public. In the end they decide the laws by which we are governed.

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