Retired judge plays a juror in SLCT’s fall show

Michael O’Rourke plays Juror #8 in the upcoming production of Twelve Angry Jurors. The play will be in the San Tan Ballroom November 7-11.

Andrea Hummel

The Sun Lakes Community Theatre fall play, Twelve Angry Jurors, runs November 7-11. Tickets are still available at This courtroom drama features a retired judge, Michael O’Rourke, in one of the leading roles. Because of the connection between his real-life occupation and this role, we asked him a few questions.

I understand you are still a practicing attorney in Minnesota. How many years have you worked in that profession? Did you always want to be an attorney?

I did always want to be an attorney, and I still practice part time in combination with another former judge. We do exclusively assignments/investigations of corporate wrongdoing and disputes. Next year will mark my 50th year in the law, including service with the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office, private practice, law school teaching, eight years as general counsel of U.S. Bank and as a district court judge. Along the way, I also wrote numerous legal articles and two published novels about lawyers.

Briefly describe your years as a judge.

I served on the bench during a time of high crime, locally and nationally. So a disproportionate share of my calendar concerned felony cases, though I also handled civil cases of every description. And while government service is financially challenging for anyone with four college-bound children, those years as a judge were the most enjoyable and stimulating of my career, especially the chance to work with juries of ordinary citizens on an almost daily basis.

Does the play Twelve Angry Jurors remind you of any cases you worked on?

It reminds me of every homicide case I ever tried, the greatest similarity being the seriousness and varying approaches of those serving on criminal juries. This play does a remarkable job of capturing and dramatizing what it’s like to take on such an important and often stressful role.

What do you regard to be the value of this play?

I sincerely believe that the passion, educational value and sheer entertainment of this play make it one of the most important and gripping dramas in American history. It should be seen by anyone with an interest or concern about American justice. Its longevity is living proof of its importance and also its value as pure entertainment.

Have you enjoyed working on this play? In what way?

Absolutely. I’ve enjoyed all the productions I’ve been in since we moved to Sun Lakes a dozen years ago, but I leaped at the opportunity to perform in a heavy-going drama of this quality, with an unusually skilled cast and director. It’s been a demanding experience, but a most worthwhile one.

Sun Lakes Community Theatre is a proud 2018-2019 recipient of an Arizona Commission of the Arts grant.