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January 03, 2020 National Conference of Federal Trial Judges

NCFTJ Chair's Column

By Hon. Leo I. Brisbois, Duluth, MN


I am tremendously honored for the opportunity to serve as the Chair of the National Conference of Federal Trial Judges (NCFTJ) for the 2019-2020 association year.  My view of leadership is informed and influenced by my personal roots in Ojibwe/Anishinaabe traditional culture as the son and grandson of enrolled members of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe Indians in Minnesota.  The Ojibwe/Anishinaabe concept of leadership – ogema – is not a European top/down construct where the leader unilaterally sets the agenda for the community to follow, but rather, it is a leadership model driven bottom/up from the community being served; the leader in Ojibwe/Anishinaabe culture is obligated to work to serve and meet the specific needs of the community.

As we begin to move deeper into the current association year, some of you may not have yet acted to renew your membership in the ABA and/or the Judicial Division National Conference of Federal Trial Judges.  If you have renewed your membership – Thank You!; and, I’d like to ask each of you to reach out to as many of your colleagues on the federal trial bench as possible to encourage them to become members of our Conference as well.  If you have not yet renewed your membership, I would like to respectfully offer a brief thought on the value of joining in association with other judges and members of the legal profession.

Participation in the ABA and the Judicial Division NCFTJ is, first and foremost, the essence of the exercise of a foundational civil liberty found in our national Bill of Rights: “Congress shall make no law ... abridging ... the right of the people peaceably to assemble ....” [See, Constitution of the United States, 1st Amendment].  By joining the NCFTJ, you are directly supporting and making possible a whole array of ABA member programs, services, and practice section activities which are available to improve the immediate, individual practice experiences of members of the Association at large.  In addition, by their example and mere presence, trial judges’ through their membership and participation in the ABA and the National Conference of Federal Trial Judges in particular, support the professional development efforts for attorney members of the ABA, and even more attorneys will consider membership in the Association if they have the opportunity to interact regularly with and learn from large numbers of members of the judiciary.  Greater attorney and judicial membership numbers and the resulting direct, personal interactions with one another on issues that benefit the profession as a whole will foster broader civility and professionalism within the legal community.  

Current members of the NCFTJ can now offer their non-member trial bench colleagues the opportunity to join our Conference at a reduced rate if they join by forming a group membership.  The ABA provides for the ability to form groups from within individual court units (the groups may consist of law clerks, staff attorneys, and judges).  Such groups require a minimum of five members (at least half of which are new members to the ABA at the time of the initial formation of the group), and someone to serve as the group administrator.  Formation of such a group provides the benefit of lower group dues rates to all members of the group; including the judges.  More information about forming such a group within an individual court unit can be found in the Public Service Group Membership Brochure.

To all of you who have already renewed your membership in the National Conference of Federal Trial Judges, as well as those of you who will soon do so, I would like to say miigwech (thank you) and that in my eyes you are all leaders – ogema.  The decision by so many of you to actively enter into association with so many others in the legal profession from all across the Nation makes you all leaders by your examples, as well as by your commitment to collectively advancing improvements in the legal profession and access to justice for your fellow citizens in the community at large.

Hon. Leo I. Brisbois

Hon. Leo I. Brisbois

2019-2020 NCFTJ Chair