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November 06, 2020 Introduction


By Judge Samuel A. Thumma

Transitions. For years, we have contemplated what’s next in our professional lives. That contemplation has been a source of motivation, excitement, anxiousness, and, at times, frustration, regret, and pain. But looking at the next big thing, the potential accomplishment that could be within reach, has been a driver for us all. This issue of The Judges’ Journal looks at these issues in the context of transitioning off the bench.

Motivation for transitioning off the bench is a personal thing, driven by different things for different people. Sometimes the drivers are objective and external, like age restrictions and vesting for retirement. Sometimes the drivers are subjective and internal. Sometimes the drivers are in our control, and sometimes they are not. But, at some point and in some way, every judge will transition off the bench.

As leadership author John C. Maxwell has noted, “Change is inevitable. But growth is optional.” This issue of The Judges’ Journal contains incredible articles by authors who have crossed the bridge off the bench, all with tremendous growth in doing so. Each tells of his or her own journey. This issue is a tribute to the authors who are willing to share their own personal stories for our benefit. We are delighted to present nine feature articles addressing transitions off the bench from various perspectives.

The issue starts with a powerful article by Colleen McNally, titled “Blowing the Dust into the Light.” After serving with distinction as a public lawyer and trial court judge, McNally describes her personal confrontation with racism in the judicial system: “As a new retiree, whatever I did or did not do to promote racial justice and equality as a judge was behind me now. The question for me, personally, was what would I do about it?” She confronts this intensely important question, candidly summarizing her difficult, but enlightening, journey.

In “From Judge to Dean and Back Again: Reflections on Transitions,” David F. Levi shares his transition from service as a U.S. District Court judge to dean of the Duke University School of Law and, more recently, to president of the American Law Institute and director of the Bolch Judicial Institute. It is an insightful look at the transitions of an incredibly accomplished member of the bar.

Robert Edmunds, in “Crossing the Bar (or Passing the Bar in the Other Direction),” addresses his transition from the appellate court back to private practice. Edmunds provides perspective from what he calls an “involuntary transition” off the bench, adding context and insight, including reminding us robe wearers that our jokes may not be funnier after all.

Judge Stephanie Domitrovich, PhD, provides helpful guidance for those who may be considering serving as a mediator after leaving the bench. Her article, “Transforming Justice: The Value of Mediation Training,” includes insight from Nancy Neal Yeend and Judge Steve Gizzi, who teach a mediation class at the National Judicial College.

Mark A. Drummond, in “Retirement: A Year in Review,” discusses moving from the appellate bench to a focus on enhancing jury trials as judicial director for the Civil Jury Project at the NYU School of Law.

In “From Bench to Bar: Transitioning Judges’ Contributions to the Practice of Law,” attorney Lisa M. Geary provides a thoughtful view of watching, as a law clerk, judges leaving the bench and the value she has seen, as a practitioner, that “retired” judges can bring to litigation.

Emily Chafa, in “Retired. Now What? Give Your Time, Talent, and Treasure to Your Community,” offers a compelling call to action for why retired judges should volunteer their time and talents to students and community groups and to spread the word about the importance of the rule of law.

In “Transitioning off the Bench and Then Some!,” Steven I. Platt describes the transition from judicial officer to alternative dispute resolution service provider, a bookend to Judge Domitrovich’s article.

Finally, in “The Next Big Thing,” I offer some musings as I begin to seriously contemplate life after the bench (spoiler alert: It turns out the next big thing may not be big at all). And, as always, we are delighted to include Judge Herbert B. Dixon Jr.’s typically wonderful technology tips and Marla N. Greenstein’s helpful insight on ethics.

We are honored to be able to publish these fabulous volunteer authors. Please reflect on your own personal experiences as you read and enjoy these articles.

Judge Samuel A. Thumma


Judge Samuel A. Thumma has served on the Arizona Court of Appeals since 2012 and previously served as a judge on the Arizona Superior Court in Maricopa County for nearly five years. The views expressed are solely those of the author and do not represent those of the Arizona Court of Appeals.