January 08, 2021 Judicial Division

Director's Column

By Tori Jo Wible, Chicago, IL

As we put 2020 in the rearview mirror, I’ve been thinking about the breadth and depth of the healing that will be necessary; as families who’ve lost loved ones, as co-workers who have lost jobs, offices, a sense of camaraderie, as Americans who’ve lost a sense of normalcy, as humans who have lost touch. Some losses leave holes that will take time to heal, others have quickly been replaced by new forms of communication that give us more interaction with family, friends, and colleagues.

As an optimist who always wants to see the best in people and situations, this year has been a struggle. One of my daily reads is the New York Times’ “Lives Lived” column. They have covered ordinary lives as well as extraordinary lives. I have bookmarked art, books, and performances to go look at later and wished I had known more earlier. I have reached for tissues at the strength and resilience of frontline workers and what they’ve sacrificed.

Among the extraordinary people we lost last year was Associate Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. So much as been said and written about her, there isn’t anything I can add. So, I will use her own words.

So often in life things that you regard as an impediment turn out to be great, good fortune.
-Ruth Bader Ginsburg

The Judicial Division took all the impediments that 2020 had to offer and has been turning them into great, good fortune. More people attended Judicial Division webinars than ever before. Kris Berliant learned more about Zoom than she ever wanted to know as the Program Committee and Judge Childs put on dozens of free and CLE programs. Jo Ann Saringer created a webpage for COVID-19 resources for courts. (She also helped Denise Dempsey with the ABA COVID resource page.)

New faces have appeared on Zoom calls; our members are more able to be involved where in the past, they were prevented from participating by schedules, budgets, or other obligations. Where previously we struggled for content, the pandemic presented us with unlimited opportunities to share lessons learned. Although the JD has long advocated for implicit bias training, the events of the summer brought racial equity to the forefront. Julie Peacock modified the 21 Day Racial Equity Habit Building Challenge© for the Judicial Division and hosted three Zoom conversations to discuss various topics led by members of all six Conferences.

The JD has been able to collaborate with entities within and outside of the ABA. Amanda Banninga has worked with the National Judicial College (the new home of the Appellate Judicial Education Institute) and the Appellate Judicial Conference to put on programming that drew over 1500 attendees from five continents. (I guess they don’t care about the wrap-up of the latest session of the United States Supreme Court in Antarctica or South America). Judge Childs has joined with at least five Sections, Divisions or Forums and several outside entities to put on amazing programs that she quickly shifted from live to virtual, bringing in incredible speakers and using her considerable talents to speak to groups that she might not have reached had everyone needed to travel.

The Cooperative Agreement with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has doubled this year under the leadership of the ABA Fellows, NHTSA partners, and program manager Kennedy Breanne Green. Kennedy’s outreach has increased the diversity of the Judicial Outreach Liaisons considered and hired to provide peer to peer judicial education on issues of impaired driving. 

Tori Jo Wible

Tori Jo Wible

ABA Judicial Division Director