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July 06, 2021 Judicial Division

Director's Column

By Tori J. Wible, Chicago, IL

The Judicial Division has weathered a year unlike any other. The country and our democracy also weathered a year unlike any other. On both the micro and macro levels, the courts and the judges did their jobs without fear or favor. 

When Judge Childs came to staff in her Chair-Elect year and pitched 12 webinars – one each month, we tried to manage expectations. The JD had never presented more than 5 or 6 in a year. As the pandemic made it clear that we were all going to be working from home for a while, Judge Childs changed direction, in the end she planned 23 webinars – two each month except for December. Then, starting in February, she added a third program each month to celebrate the tenacity and grit of judges for Black History Month, Women’s History Month, Asian-American and Pacific Islanders Month and wrapping up with Pride Month in June. I don’t believe a single speaker ever told Judge Childs no. As of mid-June, over 1200 people registered for free or modestly priced programming.

In a year without travel, JD programming reached more people than ever before. Judge Marcella Holland’s bi-annual diversity outreach programs expanded to include areas to which the ABA rarely travels at Midyear and Annual. Rather than one school in the meeting city, by taking advantage of technology, the Diversity Outreach program reached over 200 students in five schools across the country. Of the 34 volunteers, 10 were first timers. Not content with just that, the Diversity Committee led JD members in a 21 Day Racial Equity Habit Building Challenge®, which provided readings, videos, and weekly conversations.

Another form of outreach has been Judge Childs ability to involve new members. Of the 34 liaisons to other ABA entities, 18 were serving in that capacity for the first time. The bi-monthly liaison calls were lively affairs, with members helping with contacts, sharing tips, and reporting opportunities for JD involvement.

 [DT1]I am not one that believe ending in a preposition is a fixed rule, I respectfully suggest the rewrite as not to sugges we would never travel to these places, just that we would not necesssarily be able to. 

I grew up in the Midwest, I know what a silo is.

I grew up in the Midwest, I know what a silo is.

Photo by Nareeta Martin on Unsplash

The ABA has its own silos, entities get focused on their own work, their own projects, and they sometimes lose track of the bigger picture. This year, the JD co-sponsored TIPS spring meeting and worked with the planners on several panels; the JD co-sponsored several sessions at GPSolo meetings, Labor and Employment meetings, the JD co-sponsored several programs with the Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice, in turn the JD asked for co-sponsorship for most all the programming done this year greatly expanding the reach of the Division. These collaborations continue to pay dividends as more members come to the JD for content. The Division is the new home of the Court Processes Committee from the ABA’s COVID-19 Task Force, this group has members from across the ABA and outside the association, bringing another opportunity for collaboration.

Speaking of more members coming to the JD, in a year where most volunteer organizations took a huge hit, the Judicial Division’s membership has stayed steady, increased the number of student members, and increased member involvement. New technology coming online will help the JD send welcome messages more quickly when someone joins, get them enrolled in one of the division’s numerous committees, and help with meeting registration.

Here in Chicago, the city is opening back up, ballparks are back to full capacity. At this writing, both clubs are in first place and Wrigley Field held their home re-opener. As a point of privilege, I would say that the JD staff and leadership hit a bases-loaded inside-the-park home run. It was not a line shot over the fence, it was hard work, teamwork, and running relentlessly that brought the Division and its members home. I am grateful. We are gearing up for Chris Browning’s year, it looks to be another spectacular year, stay tuned!