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July 06, 2021 Lawyers Conference

LC Chair's Column

By Monica A. Fennell, Indianapolis, IN

At first glance, wellness may not seem to relate to access to justice from a judicial perspective. There are so many access issues to navigate, and COVID-19 only complicates that further. I get stressed out just thinking about all the considerations from all of the perspectives in the justice system and how remote participation might improve or exacerbate access issues. My co-panelists on the June 9th Wellness Wednesday webinar for the Judicial Division showed me how to find a new perspective and to see the magic.

I invited Indiana Supreme Court Justice Steven David (also Chair of the Appellate Judges Conference) and Danielle Hirsch and Zachary Zarnow from the National Center for State Courts to join me on the panel “Feeling Good by Doing Good: Access to Justice and Wellness.” I’ve had the pleasure of hearing them speak, and they’re quite engaging and informative speakers, so if nothing else I figured they could spellbind an audience. Their careers have also been dedicated to access to justice and to judicial service.

How could we not have fun with our magic wands and rainbow unicorn playing cards (watch the recording to see the magic!). We explored mindfulness, empathy, legal information versus legal advice, deliberative decision-making, and procedural fairness with the Wellness Wednesday attendees.

Each topic was introduced by a short segment from the following Tiny Chats on the National Center for State Courts website:

I have been lucky to learn from my co-panelists and to gain some insights into judicial decision-making, while having fun—another form of self-care. Humor is not my strong suit, but Danielle, Zach and Justice David can make anyone smile, even on a bad day.

The Tiny Chats are full of even more practical tips and techniques from the experts. In the Tiny Chat on mindfulness and empathy, Judge Leifman notes that “We’re not really there to judge the person; we’re there to judge their case.” He connects treating people with empathy with putting everyone at ease in the courtroom. According to the Tiny Chat on procedural fairness, respect and dignity are key to the perception of procedural fairness. Respect and dignity are important touchstones in these challenging times, when we are all trying to navigate many transitions from in-person to remote and perhaps now to hybrid hearings, trials, meetings, and even social and family life. Let’s hope there’s a little more “feeling good by doing good” in all our lives.

Monica Fennell

Monica Fennell

2020-2021 Lawyers Conference Chair