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July 06, 2021 National Conference of State Trial Judges

NCSTJ Chair's Column

By Hon. Linda M. Bell, Las Vegas, NV

We are finally seeing some light at the end of the tunnel in terms of COVID-19.  As we look toward a second virtual annual meeting, I know everyone is impatient to return to in person – perhaps one of the silver linings is a deeper appreciation for the value of in-person contact.

I had the honor of participating in a panel that included fellow NCSTJ members Judge Heather Welch and Judge Ramona See on the topic of COIVD-19 and the trial courts.  While every jurisdiction has responded to the pandemic somewhat differently, trial courts across the country have worked diligently to try to keep people safe and keep cases moving forward.  We have had to balance competing Constitutional rights; consider the welfare of potential jurors, members of the public and employees; learn all sorts of new technology; and learn how to manage the informality of virtual court appearances.  It is not just the lawyer who appeared with a cat filter, we all have a great virtual appearance story – the lawyer appearing from the golf course or the litigant with no shirt on…the stories are endless.  Hopefully, we will move forward taking the best of the technology to make our courts run more efficiently while returning to the valuable in-person appearances where they matter the most. 

Please register to attend the Annual Meeting beginning August 4.  NCSTJ events will be virtual.  The NCSTJ will hold a Town Hall Meeting on Thursday August 5 from 2 – 4 pm CST in conjunction with the National Council for Juvenile and Family Court Judges.  The Town Hall regarding Domestic Child Sex Trafficking will focus on how judges can learn to recognize red flags and what judges can do when seeing potential signs of trafficking.  Many thanks to our incoming chair, Judge David Connors, for his work setting up this program.  I would strongly encourage everyone to attend to learn more about this very important topic. 

The nominating committee met and has put forward the following slate for the election to take place at the NCSTJ business meeting on Friday afternoon, August 6, 2021:  Chair-Elect Judge Vivian Medinilla (Wilmington, DE); Vice-Chair Judge Marcella Holland (Baltimore, MD); Secretary Judge Denise Langford-Morris (Pontiac, MI).   For two-year terms on the Board of Directors, the following judges have been nominated:  Judge Peter Killough (Upper Marlboro, MD); Judge Margaret Masunaga (Kealakekua, HI); Judge Marian Perkins (Chicago, IL); Judge Guy Reece (Blacklick, OH); and Judge Paul Wilson (Auburndale, MA).   At the conclusion of the Annual Meeting, Judge David Connors (Farmington, UT) will ascend to the position of chair. 

All trial judges are welcome to attend the virtual town hall and the business meeting.  We will also be scheduling a social hour, so please keep an eye out for the link.  The social hour will be in honor of our dear friend and past chair, Judge Annette Scieszinski.  We unfortunately lost Judge Scieszinski in March after she waged a fearless battle with cancer.  Judge Scieszinski was passionate about judicial ethics and education and was a driving force behind the ABA Judicial Conclaves.  She was a devoted wife, mom and grandma; a tremendously gifted artist; and a hip-hop dancer.  Please bring your best Judge Scieszinski story to share. 

I look forward to seeing everyone virtually at the annual meeting.  Fingers crossed that we will be in person very soon.