Criminal prosecutor turned professor discusses political views

Although he began his career as a lawyer, lecturer of business law James Quinn has always enjoyed serving as an instructor and conductor of presentations. During Quinn’s 35 years of practicing corporate law, he most enjoyed conducting training sessions for business people. Quinn remembers such experiences fondly in 2010, when he retired but still considered himself “too young not to stay active.” As a young lawyer, Quinn spent more time in court early on in his career, where he worked as a criminal prosecutor. Quinn gained an appreciation for and new insight on human nature during his time in this position.

Transitioning from the criminal to the corporate field of law, Quinn acted as a general counsel for Carestream, and later spent 20 years at Kodak in Rochester. Since beginning his career as a professor of business law, Quinn has employed real life examples from his work experience as talking points in his lectures.

On the Geneseo campus, Quinn’s reputation carries with it a widespread myth: many students have come to believe that in 1969, Quinn received a personal invitation to the inauguration of President Richard Nixon. Hanging on his bathroom wall, Quinn does have an invitation to the Nixon inauguration, but did not receive this as a personal honor—rather, Quinn’s father-in-law, a senior military officer, had kept the memento.

To dispel rumors of his association with, and even affinity for, President Nixon, Quinn joked that even if he had personally received an invitation to the 37th inauguration, he probably would have declined and steered clear of the event. Indeed, the invitation has earned its place on the bathroom wall as a joke, emphasizing his distaste for Nixon, according to Quinn.

While Quinn does not reflect on President Nixon favorably, he identifies the current president, Barack Obama, as his favorite. Quinn regularly uses The New York Times, Politico and MSNBC to stay informed on events such as those leading up to this past election.

Reflecting on his favorite topics to cover in class, Quinn distinguishes alternative dispute resolution (mediation) and employment law—which he will teach this spring—as two top contenders. To reiterate the importance of employment law, Quinn connects the worker-boss dynamic to his strong convictions about diversity and inclusion, which he believes can advance with the right kind of legislation.

“The relationship between a person and the company for which he or she works is maybe the second or third biggest relationship that a person has, aside from marriages and parents,” Quinn said.

Having worked as both a lawyer and professor of law, Quinn maintains an interest in government; he shares the widespread feelings of concern and anxiety felt by many Americans following the election of President-elect Donald Trump.

Although he does not support Trump, Quinn acknowledges the logic behind TIME’s nomination of him as Person of the Year, and laments that Trump has gotten to a position where he can consider himself among the biggest and most influential global figures.

“No matter how you feel about who won and who lost [the 2016 presidential election] and no matter what Mr. Trump might try to do when he takes office, every person has the ability to decide when they wake up every morning how they want to treat other people and commit to honoring diversity and inclusion,” Quinn said. “There’s nothing the president can do to change that.”