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April 03, 2020 National Conference of State Trial Judges

NCSTJ Chair's Column

By Hon. Heather A. Welch, Indianapolis, IN

The National Conference of State Trial Judges (NCSTJ) had a productive meeting during the ABA Midyear Meeting in Austin, Texas.  It was wonderful to see those of you who attended and we missed the many members who could not make it to Austin.  Besides the weather being warm and sunny, Judges Stephanie Domitrovich and Christina Klineman organized and participated in an outstanding CLE entitled “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly: The Validity of Risk Assessment Tools in Setting in Setting Bail and Drafting Sentences.”  There was great attendance at this program and the panelist included NCSTJ members Judges Domitrovich, Klineman, and Guy Reece; Judge Milton Nuzum III, Judicial Director of the Ohio Supreme Court; Mark Bergstrom, the Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing; and Alicia L. Carriquiry, PhD Professor of Statistics at the Center for Statistics and Applications in Forensic Science (CSAFE), Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.  We hope we can use the program as a webinar in the future. You can read the article The good, bad and ugly of new risk-assessment tech in criminal justice  about the program as part of the ABA Midyear Highlights.

The Judicial Division (JD) along with many members of the NCSTJ participated in this years’ Judicial Clerkship Program (JCP), which I had the privilege of Co-Chairing with Rob Saunooke. It was the 20th Anniversary of the JCP. We celebrated this significant achievement with brief remarks from each conference Chair or Chair-Elect and heard remarks from Justice Frank Sullivan about the JCP.  Fifteen law schools and approximately 70 students participated.  All of the judge volunteers commented that this group of students was outstanding. 

During the NCSTJ’s business meeting, the Executive Committee voted to co-sponsor a CLE program with the National Conference of Specialized Judges entitled “Supreme Justice: A Historical Perspective of African American State Supreme Court Justices in America.”  This 1 ½ day CLE program is scheduled for June 26-27 and will take place in Stonecrest, Georgia at the Allen Executive Conference Center, which is approximately 18 miles east of Atlanta, Georgia.  It will include a well-liked social event entitled “Jazz with the Judges.”  I encourage you to consider participating; we will have more details to you soon.

There are more opportunities for you to become involved that were discussed at the Midyear during our meetings and I encourage all of you to consider taking on such a project that will improve the judiciary and the legal profession.  There are opportunities for judges to create the following programs in their jurisdictions: 1) a Diversity Judicial Clerkship Program, 2) a Bench & Bar Academy, 3) a Judicial Outreach initiative, and 4) a nomination for The Honorable William D. Missouri Civility Award. The Judicial Division Chair-Elect Judge Michelle Childs, has challenged our members to become more involved by creating a modified Diversity Judicial Clerkship Program in their jurisdictions to allow the JD to reach more students. The JCP at Midyear serves only about 70 students.  In addition, consider establishing an Annual Bench & Bar Academy; the first one will occur in Chicago on April 16-17, 2020.  The National Judicial Outreach Week was March 1-10, 2020.  I hope you participated.  If not, please consider participating in 2021. These are all wonderful ways to become more involved and we can provide materials to you to help you create similar programs in your jurisdictions. If you are up for the challenge, please contact Amanda Banninga

Lastly, I encourage to nominate someone for The Honorable William D. Missouri Civility Award which will be presented at the ABA Annual Meeting in Chicago.  The deadline is May 1, 2020. If interested in nominating an attorney or judge who has worked tirelessly throughout his or her career to promote civility and professionalism through the bar, the bench, and the community, across all racial, ethnic and gender groups, please contact Kris Berliant for details. I hope you will become more involved in the NCSTJ, the JD and in your local bench and bar.


Hon. Heather A. Welch

Hon. Heather A. Welch

2019-2020 NCSTJ Chair