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January 03, 2020 National Conference of Specialized Court Judges

NCSCJ Chair's Column

By Hon. Shelbonnie Coleman-Hall, Mobile, AL

As I prepare this column, we are now at the midway point of my tenure as Chair of the National Conference of Specialized Court Judges. I am so proud of the men and women who serve as officers and chairs of our great Conference. They have continued to work on our many initiatives to ensure that you reap and enjoy the full benefits of being a member of our great Conference.

One of those initiative is spearheaded by Chair-Elect of this Conference, Judge Ronald Ramsey who announced at the Midyear Meeting the 2020 CLE Jazz with the Judges will June 26th through the 28th in Atlanta, Georgia. This annual event has become the CLE to attend. It is a great way to earn CLE credits, recruit new members and to relax. Our Conference has been very successful in recruiting and retaining many hard-working members whom we first met at Jazz with the Judges. We are thankful to the National Conference of State Trial Judges, led by Judge Heather Welch for their vote at the Midyear Meeting to co-sponsor this event. We welcome them and are excited about this collaboration. These are exciting times for both Conferences.

This year’s Midyear Meeting in Austin, Texas was full of great reports, informative meetings, outstanding programs and of course delightful fellowship. The program our Conference co-sponsored, “The Disenfranchised Among Us” did not disappoint. It was exemplary and well attended. The panelists were knowledgeable and shared a lot of relevant information on the barriers and limitations imposed that keep qualified legal voters from exercising their fundamental right to vote.

We were honored to have the President of the American Bar Association (ABA) Judy Perry Martinez, along with ABA General Counsel, Jim Dimos attend our business meeting at Midyear. We are grateful to them for taking time out of their busy schedules to spend it with our Conference. President Martinez shared with us her commitment to diversity and the importance of diversity being a core value of the ABA. We thank President Perry Martinez for her understanding that diversity is critical and must be more then “lip service.” We applaud her commitment, her leadership and the work she does on behalf of the ABA. It has been a professional joy getting to know our President! I also appreciate her admitting to me that Mardi Gras originated in my hometown of Mobile, Alabama and not her hometown of New Orleans, Louisiana. She is the first New Orleanian to make that confession to me.

We were also honored to have Judge Bernadette D’Souza, another New Orleanian at our business meeting.  Judge D’Souza is the awesome President of the National Association of Women Judges. We are thankful she has chosen to share her expertise and to bring her many talents to our Conference. We welcome her to the NCSCJ and are glad to have her on board. Also, attending our business meeting was the President of the National Native American Bar Association, Robert Saunooke. We appreciate the great work he is doing and thank him for his uplifting words to us during our business meeting.

I am always in awe of the recipients of the awards presented by NCSCJ. We are looking forward to presenting three awards at the Annual Meeting. The William R. McMahon Award is presented to honor Judge William R. McMahon. He was an outstanding member of the Executive Committee of the ABA Judicial Division, NCSCJ and Chair of the Conference’s Modern Technology in the Courts Committee from 1990 until his death in 1994. Nominees for this award should be a judge or court employee in a court of limited or special jurisdiction who has made a significant implementation or development in the use of modern technology in a court of special or limited jurisdiction. This may be in an individual court, or it can be on a regional, statewide or national level.

Another award is the Franklin N. Flaschner Award. This award is presented to an outstanding judge in a special or limited jurisdiction who has made significant contributions on local, tribal, state and national levels to continuing education of the judiciary and in other ways improved the quality of justice in courts with specialized or limited jurisdiction. The award is named in honor of the late Chief Justice, Franklin N. Flaschner of the District Court of Massachusetts. Nominees are specifically evaluated on their integrity, truthfulness, courtesy, humility, sense of honor, patience in court, open-mindedness, intellectual courage, impartiality, creativity, diligence in performing judicial duties, punctuality in court, sound judgement, knowledge of the law, adherence to professional ethics and avoidance of improprieties.

The final award is our Judicial Education Award. This award recognizes a person, institution or judicial education and training entity for successful efforts in providing high quality judicial education and training to judges.

The application deadline for these awards is April 15, 2020. The evaluation of entries and selection of the winners will be conducted by the Awards Committee of the NCSCJ. If you have any questions or have difficulty accessing the application, please contact Linda Strite Murnane, Chair of NCSCJ Awards Committee or our staff Julianna Peacock.

In closing, it is always a personal pleasure to learn of a fellow conference member’s achievement, honor or recognition for the extraordinary work they do. Judge Ernestine Gray, a former Chair of NCSCJ and present Member-at-Large Representative was featured in a Washington Post article highlighting her innovative approach to foster care. Judge Gray was instrumental in the dramatic decrease of children in foster care in New Orleans, Louisiana. Between 2011-2017, the article stated the number of children in foster care fell by 89% compared with an 89% increase nationally. Congratulations Judge Gray on your 35 years on the bench and for doing an exceptional job.

I invite others to become a member of our great Conference. If you have any questions, concerns or suggestions please visit our Conference website or feel free to reach out to me.

Hon.  Shelbonnie Coleman-Hall

Hon. Shelbonnie Coleman-Hall

2019-2020 NCSCJ Chair