January 08, 2021 Judicial Division

JD Chair's Column

ONE JUDICIARY: ACCESS TO AND FOR JUDGES

By Hon. J. Michelle Childs, Columbia, SC

Happy New Year! I am sure we are all excited to reach 2021 and finally turn the page on 2020.

This year has brought many unsettling memories.  To begin, we still mourn the loss of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Throughout her storied career, Justice Ginsburg used her brilliant intellect and measured temperament to expand rights and protections that positively impacted the lives of all Americans. The world grieves at the passing of such a remarkable jurist, and we are left wishing and wanting for even more from Justice Ginsburg. While she will be forever hailed as many things–American hero, fearless advocate, difference maker, and judicial luminary–she will be most affectionately remembered as the truly “Notorious RBG.” May we honor and respect her. May she rest in peace.

Although the World Health Organization characterized COVID-19 as a pandemic over nine months ago, we all continue to cope with new ways of life, unprecedented challenges, and unceasing concerns over the safety and welfare of our family and friends. These difficulties will exist well into 2021 and likely have permanent effects on our lifestyles, even in a post-pandemic world.  But as we all continue to crave a return to in-person events, travel, and hugs, let us be mindful that we must still protect ourselves and others as we continue to move about our daily lives.    

Undoubtedly, COVID-19 has upended our lives and our relationships with others. As judges, we are on the front lines of the many issues that continue to affect our communities:  health, housing, employment, voting, privacy, religion, to name a few. Our decisions affect the lives, liberties, and prosperities of all persons and entities that come before us, so we must continue to preserve and reassess the opportunities to impart justice fairly, impartially, and now even more efficiently. Before the pandemic, we engaged in many practices that made litigation extremely expensive. Yet now, we have been forced to discern new ways forward. Depending on your level of technological know-how, it has never been easier to work remotely, appear at hearings by video, or otherwise practice law virtually. But, we must continue to tackle the unique challenges posed by the pandemic to administer justice more fairly and equitably as we reflect upon novel ways to adapt to our new circumstances.

Thanks to your strong commitment and diligent work, the Judicial Division unabashedly sprinted into the challenges of the pandemic. With your vital help, we continue to effectively reach more of our members and the public with our stellar, cutting-edge programming while focusing on our goals of Diversity, Educational Enrichment, Wellness and Access to Justice. We have encouraged difficult conversations surrounding racial equity and gathered ideas and solutions to further address these topics in support of our collective commitment to lead and strive for true justice for all in our society. We made ourselves available to hundreds of diverse students interested in clerking for the judiciary or becoming a judge. We have checked in on our judges’ mental health, physical security, and welfare; offered career enhancing and enriching educational opportunities; and discussed interesting and thought-provoking topics through our monthly Wellness Wednesday programming (free to all JD members) and First Thursdays webinar series.  And as we envision how courts will conduct their business in the future, our COVID-19 court technology team continues to investigate best practices for hearings and trials during the pandemic to ensure equal access to justice for all litigants regardless of their stage in life and nexus of abilities.

As we carry on through the unprecedented times, please join me in continuing to encourage other judges and lawyers to join our ranks (at our reduced membership rates) and thereafter become involved with the many committees, programs, speaking opportunities, discounts, and other numerous benefits offered to our members. 

In this continued season of giving, please consider the ABA Fund for Justice and Education, earmarking your gift for the Judicial Division.  You will be supporting our great works as we continue to overcome the pandemic’s challenges and provide exciting virtual events, useful practical resources, and other vital support to our members and our community.

I wish you many blessings, peace, and prosperity for the new year.

Hon. J. Michelle Childs, Columbia, SC

Hon. J. Michelle Childs, Columbia, SC

2020-2021 Judicial Division Chair