As a law student, Michael Satz sat in a courtroom at the end of his first case listening to the judge read her ruling — removing the parental rights of a mother following evidence of child abuse.
Satz didn’t realize his side had already won, as the rest of his team packed up their papers and left the courtroom. He was left alone with the mother and her lawyer as he gathered his papers.
“She was extremely upset and she was screaming and crying and it was a really awful day to her,” Satz said. “That was the day that I realized that even if you win, there’s people on all sides and these people have feelings on all sides. And you really have to remember that. At the end of the day, the law is really about people and even if you’re the winner sometimes it doesn’t feel like you won.”
Satz is now the Interim Dean of the University of Idaho College of Law. He joined the university in 2006 after Liz Brandt, professor in the college, discovered him from a pool of lawyers interested in teaching.
She said Satz is known for truly caring about people.
“He’s really engaged with people,” Brandt said. “He’s someone who is a really good observer and really cares about students and whether they’re successful.”
Satz earned his undergraduate degree in history and political science at Southern Methodist University, prior to spending 10 years in the navy as a surface warfare officer. While in the navy, Satz completed two tours in Japan, and said that’s really where he started to become interested in law.
Upon his return, Satz decided to attend law school at the University of Michigan. Once he earned his degree, he returned to his hometown in Dallas to practice law.
“I did bankruptcy and business litigation, and then I went to work for Nissan the car company and I did their consumer finance work for four or five years, and then I came to Idaho after that,” Satz said.
Brandt said she takes full credit for bringing Satz to UI, after she saw his name and profile at a conference and thought he might be a good fit for the College of Law.
“I was like many people when I got the call from Idaho to do an interview and I was like ‘Iowa?’ And then I looked and I thought OK maybe,” Satz said.
When Satz came to Idaho for an interview, it happened to fall in the middle of a blizzard. Fortunately, he said the people, students and school were enough to convince him to move to Idaho despite the weather.
Since joining the law school in 2006, Satz has taught classes about business and commercial law, as well as a course on critical legal studies.
“It’s where you look at race and the law, gender and the law and sexuality and the law,” Satz said. “And you look at everything where the law may not be doing as a good a job for some people as it does for other people.”
Satz said he never imagined he’d end up sitting in the dean’s office, but when the opportunity arose he said he felt it was something he needed to do for the school.
“It’s for the school,” Satz said. “It’s for my colleagues, it’s for the students. I think that I can serve them very well in this capacity and I’m very, very proud of our school and I really want to help the school progress.”
Although he said he is glad to have taken on the responsibility, Satz said he does not get to interact with students as much, something he said he misses a great deal. He said interaction is the best part of any teaching job.
“Professionally, the single hardest part of this job is that I don’t have as much interaction with the students as I used to,” Satz said. “Because that’s absolutely my favorite part and in this job I just don’t get to do that as much so that makes this job a little bit less fun. But hopefully I’m accomplishing enough that makes that sacrifice worthwhile.”
Satz said he has yet to decide if he is interested in permanently taking residence in the dean’s office. Now the father of a 4-month-old son, Satz said his first priority is to make sure his wife and son would be OK with him continuing in the demanding role.
Lodi Price, executive assistant to the vice president for research and economic development, is assisting on the search committee for the next dean of the college and said the search is still in the primitive stages.
“The search committee has just met,” Price said. “We’re hoping for preliminary interviews in January with on campus visits in February. The timing of arrival is really dependent on the final candidate and the situation they’re in.”
Until then, Satz said he is enjoying the work he is doing and the contributions he is making to the college as the interim dean, particularly his ability to help people, benefit students and improve the school.
“My favorite part of law is the justice aspect … trying to reach a just result given whatever the facts are,” Satz said. “What attracted me to law was being able to help people who might not otherwise be able to help themselves.”
Kaitlyn Krasselt can be reached at email@example.com