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October 09, 2020 Judicial Division

Chair's Column


By Hon. J. Michelle Childs, Columbia, SC

Welcome to the 2020-21 bar year! 

As I started pre-planning for this bar year, I never imagined I would have to reimagine most of my programmatic ideas to occur virtually because of a global pandemic.  The unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic continues to cause distress as it affects our minds, hearts, and loved ones.  But if there is any silver lining in this crisis, it must be the opportunities to renew our focus, rekindle our relationships, and revisit our resolutions.  Despite facing isolation, obstinate challenges, new realities of life, and novel ways of conducting court we must remain focused and stand unified in our ongoing quest to protect the rule of law, foster a fair and impartial judiciary, and provide equal access to our courts.  Our theme, One Judiciary:  Access to and for Judges, reflects the importance of such goals, particularly given the challenges of 2020.

The richness of the Judicial Division is that we are made up of several Conferences of highly talented trial, appellate, administrative, and specialized courts, judges, and lawyers with diverse backgrounds. The assets of the Judicial Division will be on full display this bar year as our schedule of programming examines an array of important and relevant topics. Our theme for the 2020 bar year will focus on programs and services related to Wellness, Educational Enrichment, Diversity, and Access to Justice. Moreover, our members will have access to leading experts on topics related to the wellbeing of judges and lawyers through a series of Wellness Wednesdays (Coping with Covid-19: A Judicial Wellness Checkup; Justifying Judicial Security: Physical and Online Protection), as well as fun topics (Speaking and Teaching Opportunities Abroad, Careers Beyond the Bench, and Judicial Authors), all provided as a complimentary JD member benefit. We have recruited exceptional faculty for our enriching First Thursdays Webinars, to address emerging, substantive legal topics for our members, the greater ABA, and other entities. Such topics will include Ethically Speaking: Lawyers, Judges, and Social Media, Artificial Intelligence and Facial Recognition Technology (a two-part series), and Access to the Courts for Other-Abled Persons. As part of our Diversity programming, we have accepted the 21-Day Racial Equity Habit Building Challenge to participate in these difficult conversations and put action to our desires for an equitable society. We will also host a mini Minority Judicial Clerkship Program at Howard University School of Law, the legal institution graduating the most African American and minority students in the nation.

In collaboration with other ABA entities and bar organizations, we will better prepare the future judges of our profession through live and virtual road shows on Demystifying the Judicial Election and Selection Process: State and Federal Courts, and future law clerks through our webinars on Demystifying the Judicial Clerkship Application Process: State and Federal Courts. We will also offer robust programming on historical milestones, such as The Complex and Courageous Campaign for Women’s Suffrage and Parity in Our Democracy: Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment and Courage Before the Court: Federalism, Diversity, and Democracy, a premier program on the progress of our country in the areas of civil rights and equal justice, and judicial independence with Dark Money in Judicial Elections. Finally, we continue to share best practices and resources for accessing our courts in response to the unprecedented demands on the legal system, particularly the judiciary. As you can see, the pandemic has provided creative ways to embrace, engage, and support our members, despite our limited ability for in-person meetings.

I am so honored and delighted to serve as your chair. Acknowledging this awesome responsibility, I am most inspired and energized by all that you—our faithful members—do for the ABA Judicial Division and the significant contributions you make to our profession and your respective communities. Remember we are all privileged to be in the legal profession as we continue to address important issues in our profession during one of the most transformational times in our country’s history. And with that privilege comes high expectations and innumerable opportunities. With our time, talent, and treasures, we can continue to work to improve justice for all persons and entities we serve. Thank you for your confidence and trust to lead you as we do good together.

Hon. J. Michelle Childs

Hon. J. Michelle Childs

2020-21 Judicial Division Chair