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October 08, 2021 Judicial Division

Director's Column

By Tori Jo Wible, Chicago, IL

And we thought this year would be different! The virus and its variants are still with us, politics are still contentious, the seasons still change. Is this our next normal? For people who need to plan, it’s been trying to say the least. As soon as we think infection rates are improving and we can get together, there is another surge. Some people are ready to get on planes and get together, others are still reluctant. 

The Judicial Division has weathered the changing landscape. Since this time last year, under Judge Childs’ leadership, the JD produced at least 27 programs, a 540% increase over the year before. The Book Editorial Board has five books under contract with the first release scheduled for later this fall. The Traffic Court Academy went forward fully remote in May and gave the National Conference of Specialized Court Judges some great ideas for future versions. The grant with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) doubled the number of Judicial Outreach Liaisons. The application for another round was submitted within the 30-day deadline.

The Diversity Committee's Youth Outreach Program that typically happens only at Midyear and Annual meetings expanded when students in Texas were impacted by freezing temperatures, lost power, and couldn’t participate in February. More than 2000 students were able to take part in the various outreach opportunities, a 600% increase over prior years. Speaking of Diversity, the JD presented programs for several special heritage months, with Judge Marcella Holland and the Committee taking up the challenge to continue the heritage month programming this year.

The JD took another budget cut, joining with all the other Sections, Divisions, and Forums in cutting 10% of last year’s budget. Given the savings in travel reimbursements and the bullish stock market, the Division was able to absorb those cuts. On a staffing level, we lost 2 employees. Long-time staffer Jo Ann Saringer moved over to the ABA Digital Content Team, where she will be overseeing web changes (and helping keep the JD’s site at the top of its game!). Although we are all sad to see her go, it’s a good spot for her and if we ever get back to the office, she’ll be just down the hall!  Our grants project manager, Kennedy Green, also left the ABA. She was accepted to Harvard Law School. We are all expecting to hear great things from her down the road. A new grants project manager started in September, our own Julie Peacock stepped into Jo Ann’s position, and we are hiring for the new staff lead to fill Julie’s shoes. The only constant is change!!

It hasn’t been all sunshine and lollipops. We’ve lost people we cared about; we’ve struggled with daycare, home schooling, and eldercare, we’ve moved households; we’ve had technology problems; some of us have struggled with isolation; and we’ve all done our best to deal with the unknown. Through it all, the ABA, the JD Leadership, and the JD Staff have found the silver linings and opportunities. I fully expect that we will continue to do so, and as we move forward, we won’t reach for normal, we’ll reach for better.

Tori Jo Wible

Tori Jo Wible

ABA Judicial Division Director

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