2020 Hindsight and New Beginnings

The roundtable panel shares their ABA experiences in this current climate. Topics included the 19th Amendment, systemic racial challenges, the loss of legal giants and other experiences during this year of the pandemic.

Watch the Zoom Recording

Hon. J. Michelle Childs

Judge, U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina

Chair, ABA Judicial Division

The Honorable J. Michelle Childs was appointed to the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina in August 2010. She holds a B.S. in Management from the University of South Florida Honors College, a J.D. from the University of South Carolina School of Law, a Masters in Personnel and Employment Relations from the University of South Carolina’s Darla Moore School of Business, and a Masters of Judicial Studies from Duke University School of Law.

Prior to the federal court, she served as an At-Large Circuit Court Judge, including having responsibilities as the Chief Administrative Judge for General Sessions and Business Court for the Fifth Judicial Circuit of Richland and Kershaw Counties. Judge Childs also had the distinct honor of gubernatorial appointments as a Workers’ Compensation Commissioner (2002-06) and as the Deputy Director for the South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation’s Division of Labor (2000-02), overseeing programs for Wages and Child Labor, OSHA, OSHA Voluntary Programs, Elevators and Amusement Rides, Migrant Labor, and Labor-Management Mediation. Judge Childs was formerly a partner with the law firm of Nexsen Pruet Jacobs & Pollard, LLP, in Columbia, South Carolina, where she practiced in the areas of employment and labor law and general litigation. Judge Childs is very active with various local, state and national bar organizations, as well as community organizations. She is a member of the American Law Institute and served as an Advisor to the Restatement (Third) of Employment Law, the Chair-Elect of the American Bar Association’s Judicial Division, and a member of the Council of the American Bar Association’s Section of Litigation, and the Secretary of the American Bar Association Labor and Employment Law Section.

She has, as a practicing lawyer and as a judge, lectured and served frequently on panels for topics regarding litigation and trial techniques, courtroom practices and procedures, discovery, expert witnesses, evidence, and various topics for new lawyers.

Hon. J. Michelle Childs

Hon. J. Michelle Childs

Judge, U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina | Chair, ABA Judicial Division

Alfreda D. Coward

Partner, Coward & Coward, P.A.

Chair, ABA Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division

Alfreda D. Coward is a partner of Coward & Coward, P.A., a law firm in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.  She practices with her sister, Kimberly D. Coward, primarily representing clients in the areas of criminal law, family law and municipal representation.  Prior to starting her own practice, she served as an Assistant Public Defender for eight years.  During her approximate twenty-one years as an attorney, Ms. Coward has had well over 200 jury trials.  Some of these trials were recorded and aired on Court TV, MSNBC and NBC Dateline. 

In addition to Coward & Coward, P.A., Ms. Coward currently serves as the co-founder of One Voice Children’s Law Center.  One Voice Children’s Law Center is a non-profit organization that represents kids that have pending matters in the dependency, delinquency and/or educational systems. 

Ms. Coward is very active in the American Bar Association having served in numerous leadership positions with the Solo, Small Firm & General Practice Division, the Section of Litigation as well as the Young Lawyers Division.  This year, she serves as the Chair of the Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division, Chair of the Standing Committee on Group and Prepaid Legal Services and as a Committee Chair in the Section of Litigation.

Ms. Coward is also active in her local community where she serves as Immediate Past President of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Broward County Alumnae Chapter, and past president of the T.J. Reddick Bar Association.  She also served as the First Vice-Chair of the Broward County Early Learning Coalition.  Even more, she served as a member of The Florida Bar Juvenile Rules Committee, a member of the School-to-Jail Statewide Initiative and a member of the American Cancer Society, Broward County Operating Board, to name a few.

Not surprisingly, she has received many accolades for her contributions to the community and the profession.  Some awards bestowed upon have included the NBA’s Nation’s Best Advocates, ABA’s Child Advocate of the Year , Legacy’s 25 Most Influential and Prominent Black Women in Business, Bar’s Exceptional Service to the Profession Award, City’s Women of Distinction Award and Power in Our Voices Award.

Ms. Coward is a graduate of the University of Florida, where she received her Juris Doctorate Degree in 1995 and her Bachelor of Science Degree in Psychology in 1992.  She is a member of The Florida Bar.  She is also admitted to practice in the United States District Courts for the Northern, Middle and Southern Districts of Florida. 

Ms. Coward is a native of Dade City, Florida where she was born as the eldest daughter of Saundra and Clarence Coward and now serves as the proud mother of Malachi.

Alfreda D. Coward

Alfreda D. Coward

Partner, Coward & Coward, P.A. | Chair, ABA Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division

Samantha C. Grant

Partner, SheppardMullin

Chair, ABA Section of Labor and Employment Law

Samantha Grant has been representing employers for more than 20 years in administrative, arbitration and trial proceedings in labor and employment matters, including single plaintiff, class and collective actions. She has extensive experience litigating discrimination, harassment, retaliation, wage and hour, breach of contract, fraud, defamation, trade secret, covenants not to compete, and unfair competition cases, among others. She also advises employers on litigation avoidance strategies and local, state and federal compliance matters, as well as conducts investigations and management and workforce training. The insight and experience she gained while on a two-year secondment, as in-house employment counsel for a Fortune 50 company, was invaluable in her becoming a particularly pragmatic outside counsel.

Samantha is Chair of the American Bar Association Section of Labor and Employment Law and Vice-Chair of the Minority Corporate Counsel Association’s Advisory Board. She is also a Fellow of the College of Labor and Employment Lawyers and a member of the American Employment Law Council and the National Employment Law Council. She frequently speaks and writes on developments related to labor and employment law, alternative dispute resolution, diversity and inclusion, and ethics.

Among other accolades, the Daily Journal named Samantha one of the 2020 “Top 100 Lawyers in California,” the Los Angeles Business Journal recognized her as one of the 2020 “Top Women Attorneys in LA” and Benchmark Litigation named her a 2020 “Labor and Employment Star – California.” She has also been named to the lists of "Thought Leader, Labour & Employment” and “Who’s Who Legal: Labour & Employment” by Who’s Who Legal on multiple occasions.

Samantha C. Grant

Samantha C. Grant

Partner, SheppardMullin | Chair, ABA Section of Labor and Employment Law

Wayne McKenzie

General Counsel, NYC Department of Probation

Chair-Elect, ABA Criminal Justice Section

Wayne S. McKenzie is General Counsel for the NYC Department of Probation (DOP). As the chief agency attorney, he is the primary advisor to the Commissioner and fellow cabinet members on all legal, legislative and compliance matters; is a member of the governing cabinet and Labor-Management Committee; and is also actively involved in key reform efforts and special projects in DOP’s Adult and Juvenile Operations. Additionally, he is the head of DOP’s Intelligence Operations, which includes the cyber investigations, gangs, warrants and inter-agency law enforcement task force units. Prior to joining DOP, Wayne was the founding Director of the Prosecution & Racial Justice Program at the Vera Institute of Justice. The program, the first of its kind and national in scope, has partnered with district attorneys around the nation to pilot internal assessment and management procedures that is helping managers identify evidence of possible racial or ethnic bias in their staff’s aggregate decision making and develop remedial and preventive protocols when it is found. Before joining Vera, Mr. McKenzie was a prosecutor in the Kings County District Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn, NY where he held several managerial positions and prosecuted high profile cases in specialized bureaus such as domestic violence, rackets and gang division, major narcotics investigations and crimes against children. He is viewed as an expert in prosecutorial discretion and racial justice issues and has been a presenter and panelist at numerous legal and other professional conferences, and before Congress and state commissions.

Mr. McKenzie sits on the American Bar Association Criminal Justice Section Council, where he is currently the Chair-elect; and is a member of the ABA Standing Committee on Gun Violence. He also serves on the advisory boards of two CJS projects geared towards improving the fair delivery of justice in the courts and legal community and was a key participant in the development of a cultural competency curriculum designed for criminal justice practitioners. He is a board member and past chair of the Metropolitan Black Bar Association and the 2012 recipient of MBBA’s Public Servant of the Year Award. Wayne is also a Past President of the National Black Prosecutors Association and a two time recipient of the Association’s Presidential Award of Excellence. Other recognitions include the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives’ Lloyd Sealy Award for Service in the Area of Criminal Justice; the FedCap Community Impact Award; the Caribbean Life Magazine Impact Award and the Caribbean American Center of New York’s Role Model of Distinction Award. He is an active participant in community outreach programs and has a special interest in criminal justice reform and programs that focus on youth. Wayne serves on several not for profit boards.

His media involvement includes appearances as a legal analyst on Court TV and Fox TV cable news and as a featured prosecutor in an A&E TV series on the Criminal Justice System. Mr. McKenzie received his Juris Doctorate degree from the George Washington University School of Law, Washington, D.C. where he served as chairperson of the Black Law Students Association and was a member of the Moot Court Board. He is a graduate of the City College of New York, where he earned a B.S. in Biology and the M.S. program where he majored in Microbiology. 

Wayne McKenzie

Wayne McKenzie

General Counsel, NYC Department of Probation | Chair-Elect, ABA Criminal Justice Section

Juan Thomas

Founder and Principal, Thomas Law Group

Of Counsel, Quintairos, Prieto, Wood & Boyer

Vice Chair, ABA Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice

Juan R. Thomas is Of Counsel to Quintairos, Prieto, Wood & Boyer, P.A., and is the founder and principal of the Thomas Law Group. Mr. Thomas’ practice includes the following specialties: real estate/estate planning, labor and employment, and family law. In addition, Mr. Thomas provides counseling and training to firm clients in areas involving personnel, collective bargaining, and business development matters.

The National Black Lawyers: Top 100 includes Mr. Thomas on its list of the Top 100 Trial Lawyers, an honor given to only a select group of lawyers for their superior skills and qualifications in the field. Membership in this exclusive organization is by invitation only and is limited to the top 100 attorneys in each state or region who have demonstrated excellence and have achieved outstanding results in their careers. Mr. Thomas’ selection was based upon his performance as an exceptional lawyer in the practice area of matrimonial and family law in the state of Illinois. In 2005, Mr. Thomas was awarded the American Bar Association Solo & Small Firm Section’s Solo Practitioner of Merit Award.

Mr. Thomas is the Vice Chair of the ABA’s Section for Civil Rights & Social Justice and is also a member of the ABA’s Section Council for State & Local Government. During the summer of 2020, Mr. Thomas was appointed to a 3-year term on the Executive Council of the National Conference of Bar Presidents after serving as the 75th President of the National Bar Association from 2017-18.

A graduate of Morehouse College, Mr. Thomas received his Juris Doctor and master’s in educational policy degree from the University of Illinois in Campaign-Urbana. An ordained Baptist minister, Mr. Thomas also holds a Master of Arts in Religious Studies from the University of Chicago School of Divinity.

Juan Thomas

Juan Thomas

Founder and Principal, Thomas Law Group | Of Counsel, Quintairos, Prieto, Wood & Boyer | Vice Chair, ABA Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice

Music provided by bensound.com.