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October 09, 2020 Appellate Judges Conference

AJC Chair's Column

By Hon. Steven David, Indianapolis, IN

During times like these, it becomes a natural exercise to reflect on one’s life experiences. Many of us have enjoyed long, illustrious careers in the legal profession. Through triumph and defeat, we have persisted. As we endure the current season, I hope you’ll remember that you have overcome challenges before and this, too, shall pass. Our commitment to personal and professional growth will see us through, and as the new chair of the Appellate Judges Conference, I pledge myself in service to these shared goals.

Personally, I have committed to seek out different perspectives and truly listen to viewpoints other than my own. In doing so, I recently experienced a “mini-revelation” during the celebration of Congressman John Lewis’s life. No matter the circumstances, Congressman Lewis devoted his life to the cause of justice. Aside from his legacy as a freedom fighter, the late congressman was also well known for his humility and humanity. These characteristics were reflected in the words of 12-year-old Tybre Faw, a young man who met and befriended Congressman Lewis several months prior.

Mr. Faw read from Congressman Lewis’s favorite poem, “Invictus” By William Ernest Henley. The poem’s words are poignant and ring with particular relevance in today’s climate:

Out of the night that covers me,
      Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
      For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
      I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
      My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
      Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
      Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
      How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
      I am the captain of my soul.

As we continue marching through this season of life, our role as judges has become even more important. We have been placed at the helm of a great American institution with little room for error. We each have a choice: We can succumb to the darkness—the “bludgeonings of chance” or the “place of wrath and tears”—or we can remain undaunted, focused on controlling what is within our influence, and provide unequivocal, compassionate justice for all.

While the events of this year have left us all numbed, humbled, frustrated, and infuriated, I am convinced we will all choose to remain undeterred. I choose to actively listen to the experiences, challenges, and disadvantages of others, to be more willing to learn more about my personal weaknesses, biases, and prejudices, and to act and support those who are devoted to the cause of justice.

My wife and I recently pledged to take the ABA’s 21-Day Racial Equity Habit-Building Challenge. This program encourages us to think more deeply about our shared responsibility to grow in our knowledge and understanding of race, power, privilege, and oppression. Through this exercise, we are learning about empathy and compassion. If you are open and willing, I would encourage each of you to participate. 

I would be remiss if I didn’t pause to commend the Honorable Albert Diaz on a job well done. As the outgoing chair of the AJC, Judge Diaz made a positive mark on all of us. We are forever grateful for his leadership throughout the past year. Will you join me in a socially distanced round of applause for the great Judge Diaz?

I am looking forward to spending the next year with you. We will remain the masters of our fate and the captains of the soul of the AJC. I am at your service and in your employ. Please reach out to me with comments, suggestions, or questions.

Let’s get to work!

Hon. Steven David

Hon. Steven David

2020-2021 AJC Chair