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July 06, 2021 Judicial Division

Chair's Column

One Judiciary: Access to and For Judges

By Hon. J. Michelle Childs, Columbia, SC

What a year of trials, tribulations, and triumphs!  In this last newsletter of the 2020-21 bar year, I am graciously overwhelmed at the assiduous efforts of our judicial colleagues and lawyers to continue the meaningful work of the Judicial Division.  As One Judiciary, we survived an ongoing global pandemic, nurtured, and grew lasting relationships, provided stellar educational programming and judicial outreach opportunities, increased access to justice, and emboldened discussion and action on various issues facing our communities. All these activities supported our theme of One Judiciary:  Access to and For Justice.   We did so through our pillars of Diversity, Educational Enrichment, Wellness, and Access to Justice.        

Diversity and Access to Justice.   WE continue to work toward our obligation to ensure the court system is fair, impartial, and accessible to everyone, and reflects the communities it serves. Judicial diversity is imperative to adequately reflect the multitude of backgrounds, racial and ethnic constituents and cultures, experiences, and perspectives that make up our society. WE have assisted in this regard through our outstanding diversity and mentoring programs at various schools and underrepresented communities throughout the nation. WE have particularly been successful in reaching out to places that have sometimes been overlooked so that all students have an opportunity to be exposed to lawyers and judges. WE have provided inspiration for these students to consider careers as lawyers and judges and further developed a pipeline for admission into law school. Through these efforts, including our judicial outreach network, judicial clerkship programming, and other community outreach programs, we reached over 1,000 students. We are so thankful to our participating members in their assistance towards these outstanding efforts.  Additionally, we have partnered with several ABA entities to unlock the “secrets” of our journey to judging through webinars titled Demystifying the Judicial Selection and Election Processes:  State and Federal Courts. Among the topics discussed were the typical duties and responsibilities of judges, the building of resumes to become competitive candidates for selection or election, how these processes typically work, and the case for increased diversity on the bench. Both those interested in becoming judges, as well as current judges considering a different court, attended these insightful and interesting programs. 

But our outstanding public programming did not stop there. WE went even further this year by highlighting the experiences of a diverse array of judges on their respective pathways to the bench and fostering an inclusive environment in our courts and communities.  Our events included programming for Black History Month (Judicial Trailblazers and the Hills They’ve Climbed:  A Discussion with Preeminent Black Judges and their Challenges and Triumphs); Women’s History Month (Judicial Milestones in the Quest for Women’s Equality); Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (A Journey Through America’s Silent History); and Pride Month (Legal Path to Equity: The Progress, Challenges, and Perseverance of the LGBTQ+ Communities in the Courts). These programs continue to be available to the public through the ABA Judicial Division’s website. 

Educational Enrichment. WE had an outstanding selection of First Thursday Webinars to educate the judiciary and lawyers on cutting-edge legal topics, such as Ethics and Social Media, Artificial Intelligence and Facial Recognition Technology, and Virtual and Remote Courts During the Pandemic. WE developed exceptional resources through our participation in the ABA’s Coronavirus Task Force and our program on Rolling Up Our Sleeves: Using Special Masters to Help Deal with the New Normal in Federal Court.  WE also had a wonderful program on Dark Money in Judicial Elections at the ABA Annual Midyear Meeting and have been selected for a Showcase Program on Courage Before the Court: Federalism, Diversity, and Advocacy for the ABA Annual Meeting.

Wellness.  Given the challenges of the past year, it has been particularly important to underscore wellness. WE have presented monthly Wellness Wednesday seminars aimed at ensuring the mental, physical, and emotional health and wellness of our judicial colleagues and the sharing of opportunities for judges.  Such programs have focused on Coping with Covid, Judicial Security, Speaking and Teaching Opportunities Abroad, Judicial Authors, Implicit Bias, Careers Beyond the Bench and Bar, Judges and the Media, Secondary Traumatization in the Judiciary, and Access to the Courts.  WE also offered a First Thursday Webinar series to address relevant issues in the court, including e-discovery, artificial intelligence, and re-envisioning courts in a post-pandemic world.  These complimentary member programs are also available in our Judicial Division library.

Thank you all, including our wonderful staff, for your outstanding work and enduring commitment to the JD’s mission. Your efforts have truly been motivating and inspirational. Even in the face of the pandemic, we continued to positively impact communities and educate current and future members of our profession in order to expand horizons, increase awareness and action on a plethora of issues, and, hopefully, make the world a little safer, healthier, fairer, and more prosperous. Words cannot express the gratitude I have felt in being able to serve as the Judicial Division’s Chair over the past year.  

I wish you many blessings, enduring peace, and abundant prosperity.

Hon. J. Michelle Childs, Columbia, SC

Hon. J. Michelle Childs, Columbia, SC

2020-2021 Judicial Division Chair