Law School Recalls Contributions of Clerkship Professor Charles Bobinette

WashULaw - Adjunct Professor Charles Bobinette

Washington University School of Law’s faculty and alumni recently recounted and celebrated the invaluable contributions of Judicial Clerkship Adjunct Professor Charles Whitney Bobinette, who passed away on July 25, 2016. He was 70.

For more than four decades, Charles Bobinette, known to his colleagues as Chuck, served as a clinical instructor and adjunct professor at the School of Law, inspiring hundreds of students in their professional development. 

“The WashULaw community is saddened by the loss of our dear friend and colleague, Chuck Bobinette,” said Robert Kuehn, associate dean for Clinical Education and professor of law. “Chuck served our school and students in countless ways. He will be deeply missed.”

Professor Karen Tokarz, former Clinical Education Program director, recalled: “Chuck was always driven by a desire to help people and to do the right thing – for his clients, his students, his friends, even folks he met on the street. His ever-present grin was matched by his ever-present kindness.”

WashULaw - Chancellor Mark Wrighton and Adjunct Professor Charles Bobinette

Bobinette was an integral part of WashULaw’s Clinical Education Program in its earliest years, serving as a full-time clinical instructor in the Introductory and Advanced Clinics in the 1970s. Prior to that time, he was an attorney at the Juvenile Justice Division of the Legal Aid Society of Missouri (now Legal Services of Eastern Missouri).

“I first met Chuck when I was a deputy juvenile officer at the St. Louis City Juvenile Court. He was part of a team of legal services lawyers representing juveniles at a critical time in the evolution of constitutional rights for juveniles,” said Tokarz, the Charles Nagel Professor of Public Interest Law & Public Service; director of the Negotiation & Dispute Resolution Program; and director of the Civil Rights & Community Justice Clinic. “Their tireless work inspired me to go to law school, work at Legal Services, and go into clinic teaching. He was a peerless role model.”

Bobinette continued to serve the school as an adjunct professor, even after he left full-time teaching in 1977 to become a judge on the St. Louis City Municipal Court. For almost 40 years, he oversaw the school’s popular Judicial Clerkship Externship, which places students as part-time law clerks under the supervision of local, state, and federal trial and appellate judges in Missouri and Illinois.

Bobinette was known for taking students under his wing – whether it was those who wanted to go into the private sector or pursue public sector work, and especially any student who asked for help.

WashULaw - Adjunct Professor Charles Bobinette, Professor Kathy Goldwasser and law student

One such student was Joel Christensen, JD ’10, editor in chief of the Washington University Journal of Law & Policy, a Wiley Rutledge Moot Court champion, and a recipient of both the Mary Collier Hitchcock Prize for outstanding writing and the Dan Carter-Earl Tedrow Memorial Award. With multiple career options before him, Christensen sought Bobinette’s advice and mentoring during his final semester of law school. Christensen eventually chose to work in private practice in St. Louis. He is currently a partner at a midsize firm, Behr, McCarter & Potter, and has since followed in Bobinette’s footsteps, serving as an adjunct professor.

“Professor Bobinette was very generous with me. I first met him when I participated in the Judicial Externship Program after my 1L year,” Christensen recalled. “We kept in touch and this led to my shadowing him at his law firm for my final 3L semester. He even offered me a temporary position with him if I could not find work elsewhere after graduation.

“His generosity included having me and my wife, Becky (Rebecca Christensen, JD ’10), over to his home for dinner with his wife, Debbie, toward the end of my semester with him. I know he provided opportunities for a lot of students over the years and always did things the right way,” Christensen added.

Born in Chicago, Bobinette studied political science at Denison University and earned his law degree at Saint Louis University. His extensive experience on the court and in private practice served as an inspiration to the many students in the school’s Judicial Clerkship program.

After serving as a judge in the St. Louis Municipal Court from 1977 to 1981, Bobinette joined the law firm of Uthoff, Graeber, Bobinette & Blanke as a partner. His work focused on personal injury, workers’ compensation, and business and employment litigation. He had been a board member of the Crusade Against Crime since 1988 and served a term as the group’s president.

A memorial service is scheduled for Sunday, August 14 at 2:30 p.m. at the Kirkwood United Methodist Church, 201 W. Adams Ave., Kirkwood, MO 63122.