January 03, 2020 National Conference of State Trial Judges

NCSTJ Chair's Column

By Hon. Heather A. Welch, Indianapolis, IN

During my year as chair, I want to focus on the importance of civility and professionalism in the legal profession.  Judges are leaders and it makes sense that we take on the challenge of improving civility and professionalism inside and outside of the courtrooms across the United States. As Judges, we can lead by example and demonstrate that those who take the high road and practice what they preach with civility and professionalism can improve the legal profession.   

At the 2019 ABA Annual Meeting in San Francisco, the NCSTJs began this endeavor to improve civility and professionalism in the practice of law by hosting a CLE entitled, “Avoiding the Game of Thrones in the Courtroom: Fostering Civility and Best Practices,” which featured NCSTJ Members Judge Stephanie Domitrovich and Judge Sophia Hall as well as Judge David K. Thomson, formerly from our Conference.  This was an excellent program and certainly was in the spirit of Judge William Missouri’s devotion to professionalism and civility.  

Also, during the Annual Meeting, the first The Honorable William D. Missouri Civility Award was given to the judge’s widow, Delores Missouri, by the Judicial Division (JD). In subsequent years, it will be presented annually to a lawyer or judge who exhibits exceptional qualities of civility, courtesy and professionalism toward colleagues, litigants and the public. It may also be presented to a person or organization that promotes civility in the legal profession. The goal is that this will improve and promote civility in the profession. 

In addition, Judge Mary Vasaly and Judge Christina Klineman, Co-Chairs of the NCSTJ JD Record Editorial Board, have committed to including in the JD Record a column that discusses judges who have followed Judge Missouri’s example in improving the professionalism and civility of our profession and to provide our members with tools and ideas for judges to implement in their courtrooms when attorneys are not conducting themselves with civility.

Lastly, the NCSTJ has plans to create the Judge William D. Missouri Civility Lecture Series. It is my hope that this lecture series will highlight The Honorable William D. Missouri Civility Award. Recipients of the award could participate in the lecture series and, more importantly, give judges tools to improve civility and professionalism in their courtrooms.  Our Conference will be building on the foundation that the Immediate Past NCSTJ Chair, Judge Guy Reece, built when he and Immediate Past JD Chair, Judge Toni Clarke, worked through the JD to start the first Honorable William D. Missouri Civility Award at the 2019 Annual Meeting. Thank you, Judge Reece and Judge Clarke, for recognizing the wonderful accomplishments of Judge Missouri and creating a way to allow his teachings on civility and professionalism to continue.

Finally, the ABA Midyear Meeting will take place in Austin, Texas from February 12-16, 2020. During this meeting, the Judicial Clerkship Program (JCP) will celebrate its 20th Anniversary.  The JCP Committee hopes you will consider participating in this important program.  Many statistics gathered regarding Federal and State courts demonstrate that we need to continue to work on encouraging minority and other students in traditionally under-represented communities to seek and obtain clerkships in both federal and state courts and within both state and federal administrative agencies. To volunteer, contact kris.berliant@americanbar.org.

I look forward to seeing you all in Austin, Texas at the Midyear Meeting.  

Hon. Heather A. Welch

Hon. Heather A. Welch

2019-2020 NCSTJ Chair

NCSTJ Members from the 2019 ABA Annual Meeting.

NCSTJ Members from the 2019 ABA Annual Meeting.