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June 29, 2020 National Conference of Specialized Court Judges

NCSCJ Chair's Column

By Hon. Shelbonnie Coleman-Hall, Mobile, AL

As I write my last column as NCSCJ Chair, I am also preparing to bury the man who helped change the trajectory of my life. My father, Herman Edward Gamble unexpectedly died during a physical therapy session. He was a decent, kind, generous, easy going and hardworking man. He showed me and so many others what unconditional love looks and feels like. His love knew no limit. A tall, handsome, stately and well-groomed man whose outer beauty was no match for his big, beautiful heart. He was truly one of a kind and will be missed so much. My last column is dedicated to my dad, affectionately known as “Papa/PawPaw”.

This is a difficult time to lay to rest a loved one. The Coronavirus Pandemic has been adequately described as an invisible war that has and continues to affect many families. I hope we never become desensitized to the mind-boggling numbers of those unable to escape the deathly grip of this virus. Every number represents an individual who paid the ultimate price. The numbers do not adequately account for families who must pick up the pieces of their heart after losing a loved one to this deadly virus. I know what that feels like. Two weeks before my dad passed, my uncle’s life was seized by this horrible virus. I know I am not alone. According to an article published on April 28, 2020, in National Geographic, the number of victims who lost their lives due to COVID-19 surpassed the number of American Soldiers killed in the Vietnam War, Korean War and World War I, respectively. Let us continue to lift up in prayer our country and all those families who have been affected by this invisible war.

As we try to navigate this “new normal," becoming a member of the ABA, JD, NCSCJ has become even more important. We have great resources on ways to go forward with the business of courts, staying safe and safeguarding due process rights. The pandemic has pushed us all to do things differently. I believe, we as a people and Conference will emerge stronger because we were able to conquer these challenges together. Despite these challenges, NCSCJ has continued to do the work of our Conference. Our Conference’s summer began with our June Executive Board Meeting. At this meeting, we discussed the first ever ABA Virtual Annual Meeting for 2020, which will be complimentary for ABA members. Although, we will not meet in person, I look forward to gathering together. Our Conference is honored to have been chosen to sponsor, along with the Section of Litigation, a program titled: Justice in the Crosshairs: Defending Judicial Independence the Keystone of Justice – in the U.S. and the World. NCSCJ Program Chair Judge Richard Ginkowski and his committee have done an exceptional job providing educational opportunities through great programming, audio podcasts and webinars. Just recently, Judge Ginkowski spoke with former CNN Correspondent and Crisis Communications Expert, Mr. Dan Ronan, on an episdoe of Gavel Talks about how judges and courts can effectively communicate with public stakeholders during the COVID-19 Pandemic. 

Thanks to NCSCJ EC Member, Judge Michael Pietruszka, we have been able to co-sponsor programs with the National Courts and Science Institute (NCSI). We look forward to more collaborations with this outstanding group.

We received rave reviews on this year’s Traffic Court Seminar in New Orleans, pre-pandemic. As usual, our speakers were outstanding. Leading the 2021 Traffic Court Seminar is Judge Andra Sparks. He and his committee are innovatively planning the first virtual Traffic Court Seminar.

My sincerest thanks to Col. Tara Osborne (Ret.) for stepping up to Chair the NCSCJ Nominating Committee when our former Chair resigned. She has eagerly said yes to all I asked of her. The NCSCJ Nominating Committee recommended long time, dedicated NCSCJ Member, Judge Ernestine Gray for JD Vice-Chair. Her nomination was unanimously approved by the JD Nominating Committee. After the period for petitions for additional candidates has expired, a vote by the Council will take place at the Annual Meeting.

As my year as Chair comes to an end, I thank my Conference for embracing the "Bs" of my Building Block Initiatives. We have built transformational and innovative programming, built our membership while retaining existing members and our Book (Program) was updated. Finally, we built upon the rich legacy of our Conference by reaching out to our former Conference Chairs and inviting them to again become a vibrant, active part of our great Conference.

As I depart, I am most proud of the in-depth, thought provoking discussions I led as Chair of this Conference regarding ABA Goal III, “Eliminate Bias and Enhancing Diversity”. I am grateful to my EC members for staying the course with me. We made a difference in having the ABA and JD review their diversity policies and in allowing Conferences to have a say in the evaluation process of staff members assigned to them.  I am thankful to JD Chair Justice Elizabeth Lang-Miers (Ret.) and former JD Chairs, Judges Toni Clarke, Ann Breen-Greco and Col. Linda Murnane (Ret.) who stood with us. None of this would have been possible without the commitment of ABA President, Judy Perry Martinez who took our concerns seriously. She understands we must do all we can to put our heart into increasing diversity and being the best ABA that we can. We cannot afford to leave anyone behind.

While this has been a challenging year, it has also been an amazing year for NCSCJ. It has been my honor and privilege to Chair a Conference that has outstanding men and women of the judiciary. Thank you for your support and service.

Hon.  Shelbonnie Coleman-Hall, 2019-2020 NCSCJ Chair

Hon. Shelbonnie Coleman-Hall, 2019-2020 NCSCJ Chair

Judge Shelbonnie Hall with her father Herman Edward Gamble, after taking the oath to become one of the new municipal judges in Mobile.