October 09, 2020 Council of Appellate Staff Attorneys

CASA Chair's Column

By Elizabeth T. Ryan, Nashville, TN

This is my last article as the Chair of the Council of Appellate Staff Attorneys (CASA). Most other committees in the ABA, or even the Judicial Division for that matter, turn over their leadership at the Annual Meeting.  CASA’s annual changeover in leadership occurs in November at the Appellate Judges Education Institute (AJEI) Summit.  Sadly, the AJEI Summit has been postponed this year, for good reason.   The loss for CASA members is additionally hard because it is the one time during the year most of us have the opportunity to see each other as we are spread out in court systems across the country.  Our annual meeting will suffer the same fate many other in-person meetings have faced this year -- we will resort to a Zoom call to discuss important business, elect new officers, and try to catch up with each other.

Not surprisingly, this year as CASA Chair has not gone as I expected.  I anticipated seeing colleagues at the Midyear and Annual meetings and working with CASA membership on our goals and plans for the year.  Some initiatives have been completed while others did not get off the ground (but I have until November, so there is still hope).  Despite the particular unpredictability of this current time, many opportunities for involvement in the life of the Appellate Judges Conference (AJC) and the AJEI have presented themselves to CASA.  So, like many, I have tried to find the positive in the midst of the uncertainty.  Here’s what I have learned:

  • I am proud to serve in our court system.  I have seen judges and lawyers quickly adjust and pivot to make sure courts remain open and that litigants are treated fairly and are well-represented.
  • I have been reminded of how much the judicial system impacts the everyday lives of people, even if they do not realize it.  I am grateful for the small part I have played in that as a staff attorney.
  • I have had the great fortune in my role as CASA Chair to work with tremendously talented and passionate judges and lawyers on webinars that have ranged from how the appellate judiciary is adapting in the pandemic to addressing bias and diversity in appellate courts and practice.
  • I do not like Zoom meetings, but I am glad to see the faces of my colleagues and fellow members of the AJC - it helps us remain humanized in what can feel like a very dehumanizing time.
  • Though I will look forward to not having so many Zoom meetings, I will miss knowing first-hand about the great work happening in the legal community across the nation.