January 08, 2021 Appellate Judges Conference | Council of Appellate Staff Attorneys

CASA Chair's Column

By William T. Owen, Nashville, TN

As I stepped into my new role as chair of the Council of Appellate Staff Attorneys during CASA’s annual business meeting in November, I reflected not just on how much this past year has differed from my expectations, but on how CASA has responded to the challenges. When I became chair-elect a year ago, I was excited about the opportunity to engage with our membership, to help plan the Appellate Judges Education Institute Summit, and to participate in many other programs sponsored by CASA, the AJC, and the AJEI. Perhaps most of all, I was excited to spend time with the many judges and attorneys in the AJC whom I have gotten to know over the years. Am I disappointed we were unable to have the 2020 AJEI Summit or to meet in person? Absolutely. But I am grateful for CASA’s many accomplishments this year and have come to realize that my membership in CASA and the AJC has been more valuable than ever.

As the pandemic stretched into the summer and fall, I appreciated the opportunity to attend several AJEI and AJC online programs. CASA members played an integral role in these programs including “A Constitutional Examination of the COVID-19 Pandemic,” “Appellate Advocacy in the Age of COVID-19,” “Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Who’s the Least Biased of Us All,” and “Supreme Court Review with Dean Erwin Chemerinsky.” Beyond the formal programs, I appreciated the opportunity to connect with judges and attorneys across the country in numerous Zoom meetings, to discuss the multitude of problems presented by the pandemic, and to share our jurisdictions’ different approaches to handling these issues.  

The challenges of the past year have also highlighted the critical role our state and federal judiciaries play in our society. We may have differing personal views, but we all agree on the importance of the rule of law. I am proud of the role CASA members play in our judiciary.

As we look forward to 2021, CASA plans to pick up where it left off last Spring with the AJEI Summit. The Summit is scheduled for November 11 through 14, 2021 in Austin, TX. CASA will be involved in numerous Summit programs, including the always popular “Supreme Court Review.” If you have not attended an AJEI Summit, it is the premier education program for appellate judges and attorneys and should not be missed.

CASA also intends to put an emphasis on membership this year, not just on growing our numbers, but also on increasing engagement with our current members. There are plenty of roles for any members who want to be involved in CASA leadership, the AJEI, or other CASA programs. We want all our members involved. We also encourage all appellate staff attorneys to join CASA and ask the judges to encourage their staff attorneys to join.

Finally, I want to express my deep appreciation to CASA’s outgoing chair, Elizabeth Ryan. She skillfully guided CASA through a year like no other and has been an invaluable resource for me as I embark on my year as chair. 

I am looking forward to working with the members of CASA and the AJC this year. I am especially looking forward to the day when we can all meet in person again. In the meantime, I am so thankful for the opportunities and support I have received from CASA and the AJC.  

Mr. Tray Owen

Mr. Tray Owen

2020-2021 CASA Chair