April 05, 2021 Judicial Division

Standing Committee on Diversity in the Judiciary Outreach

By Hon. Elizabeth R. Finn (Ret.), Phoenix, AZ and Hon. Marcella A. Holland, Baltimore, MD

Though the Midyear Meeting was held virtually, it provided the Standing Committee on Diversity in the Judiciary unique opportunities to connect with students in schools in cities where ABA meetings would never be held. There were over 250 students scheduled, 220 attended. We had 34 judges who participated, 10 were first time volunteers. Judge Diana Song Quiroga had identified a Laredo, Texas school. However, they were unable to participate due to the weather causing severe power outages. They were very disappointed they had to cancel and were hoping to be rescheduled shortly. 

Judge Julia Weatherly (Ret.) recruited a school in Danbury, Connecticut. She reported it was good group of engaged students in a town we would never reach during in-person.  The group was a social justice club of 15 students, with 3 judge volunteers.  She thought the ratio of students to judges was great.

Judge Breen-Greco recruited a school in Chicago, IL. This was a little more challenging than usual with only 40 minutes sessions however all interactions went well. There were 2 sessions: a morning class of 27 students with 4 judge volunteers, and afternoon class with 47 students and 8 judge volunteers. There were some attendance issues within the students. All the judges thought the number of judges to students was good.

Judge Emily Chafa of Iowa scheduled a 9:00am session with the Iowa Prep Academy 7th Graders. Some of the students possibly did not know what they were attending, but the teachers helped with comments in the chat before the presentation started.  There were a little over 100 students, and 13 judges volunteering, which we all agree was a good number of judges to students. Judge Chafa reported that the 12:00pm session with the Mock Trial group from various middle schools in Iowa also went well.  It was approximately 35 students at any given time, though students filtered in and out according to their school schedules 6 judges participated.  Judge Chafa said this was also a good ratio of students to judges.

Regardless of whether future meetings of the ABA are virtual or in person, all members of the Committee felt the continuation of reaching out to nontraditional ABA cities should continue. We were able to contact students who would never have had the opportunity in interact with so many judges at one time. The use of breakout rooms for larger classes was very beneficial.

Evening Panel by the Honorable Marcella Holland (Senior Status), Baltimore, MD

Our Bench to Bar Diversity Outreach Program was held virtually at 5:00 PM (CST). This program highlights the importance of diversity on the bench, featuring a panel of diverse judges from across the country who talk about their paths to the bench. The judges also offer young lawyers and law students advice on preparing for a successful legal career which will position them for future judgeships if desired. This year’s panel was outstanding and gave invaluable advice to the audience. Our illustrative panelists were:

The Honorable Albert Diaz, U. S. Circuit Court Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit

Judge Diaz is the first Hispanic to serve on the 4th Circuit. Prior to his current position, he was a North Carolina state superior court judge and an appellate judge for the Navy-Marine Corps Court of Appeals.

The Hon. Henry Hamilton III, Federal Administrative Law Judge

Judge Hamilton is a federal administrative law judge.  Previously, he was an administrative judge with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and a magistrate judge in Iowa.  Judge Hamilton is in line to become the first African American to lead the Iowa State Bar Association.

The Hon. Diane Humetewa, U.S. District Judge, US. District Court for the District of Arizona

Judge Humetewa is the first Native American woman and enrolled member to serve as a federal judge. She previously worked as the United States Attorney for Arizona and as an appellate  court judge for the Hopi Tribe.

 The Hon. Jill Rose Quinn, Judge, Circuit Court of Cook County, IL

Judge Quinn is the first openly trans elected official in the state of Illinois and is the fourth openly trans judge in the United States. Before her election to the bench, she was in private practice in her own law firm.

We partnered with the Young Lawyers Division in not only marketing the program but using one of their members as our moderator. Our Moderator was Ms. Tamara Nash, Special Assistant U.S. Attorney for the State of South Dakota. She represents both federal and state arms of prosecution because she also works with the Attorney General’s Office, prosecuting firearm, and high intensity drug cases. She is the recipient of the ABA On The Rise Award. Her handling of questions and comments to and from the panelists shows the reason she won this award. She showed great insight, high achievement and all the skills seen in leaders. We expect to hear good things about her in the future.

The panel of judges, after giving their unique paths to the bench, addressed topics like steps in making a successful legal career and pursuing a judgeship; importance of bar service;  prioritizing well-being, especially when one is the “first” or “only; importance and purpose of mentoring; difficulties in serving in the judiciary and lastly how the profession can work to create opportunities for members to continue to break down barriers within the legal profession as well as in society at large. There were good questions posed during and at the end of the discussion. Ms. Nash referred to a quote from Senator Corey Booker in one of her questions and in her concluding remarks.  We all should reflect on this quote:

“The right attitude can transform a barrier into a blessing, an obstacle into an opportunity, or a stumbling block into a steppingstone.”