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October 08, 2021 National Conference of State Trial Judges

NCSTJ Chair's Column

By Hon. David M. Connors, Farmington, UT

At the beginning of this new year for the Judicial Division’s National Conference of State Trial Judges (NCSCJ), I want to thank all of you for allowing me the opportunity of serving you as the Chair of our Conference. During this past Annual Meeting a comment was made that the volunteers who are the workhorses, and the leaders, of many of the Judicial Division’s committees are in fact state trial judges who come from the membership of our conference. Thank you to all of you for your dedication and your service.

I wish to give special recognition at this time to Judge Linda Bell who has served so well under such difficult circumstances as the chair of our conference for this past year. Most of you know that Judge Bell is the presiding judge in Nevada’s most populated county, Clark County, which includes the city of Las Vegas and its surrounding areas. Her administrative duties during this pandemic have certainly been overwhelming, and yet she has managed to find the time to lead our conference with vision and with grace.

Speaking of leadership, and our conference, we just finished a very good Annual Meeting, with some inspiring leadership meetings and CLE programs. Sadly, as has become the norm lately, it was all virtual, as far as activities for our conference. We miss seeing you in person and can only hope that in the coming year we will have the opportunity to gather in person once again.

The Annual Meeting started with a very successful Youth Outreach Program organized by the Judicial Division’s Standing Committee on Diversity in the Judiciary, which is chaired by NCSTJ's own Judge Marcella Holland. The program involved nearly 200 students and dozens of volunteer judges, including many from the NCSTJ (clearly the NCSTJ had the strongest representation of any of the JD conferences!!). The following day we had a sobering, but compelling, Town Hall presentation titled “Domestic Child Sex Trafficking: Reality, Recognition and Response."

Early Thursday evening the ABA’s William D. Missouri Award, which is presented to a person “who exhibits exceptional qualities of civility, courtesy, and professionalism in their legal or judicial careers towards not only colleagues and litigants, but also the public at large” was presented to the NCSTJ’s own Judge Guy Reece, of Ohio.  In his characteristic way, Judge Reece, who all of us know was a very deserving recipient, accepted the award in a most humble fashion. You probably recall that Judge Reece was the chair of our conference just a few short years ago.

On Friday, we held our NCSTJ business meeting, at the conclusion of which the torch was passed from Judge Bell to our new leadership group which includes myself as chair, Judge Vivian Medinilla of Delaware as Chair-Elect; Judge Marcella Holland of Maryland as Vice-Chair, and Judge Denise Langford-Morris of Michigan as Secretary. I should note that our dear friend, Judge Mary Vasaly of Minnesota, told us this past Spring of her need to resign, primarily for health-related reasons, from her position as Vice-Chair of the Conference. We miss her contribution to our leadership group.

And, speaking of good friends and dynamic leaders, we learned this past March of the passing, after a valiant battle with cancer, of our former NCSTJ chair, Judge Annette Scieszinski of Iowa. As those of us who knew her fondly recall, Judge Scieszinski was a brilliant and inspiring leader, irrepressible in her enthusiasm, and talented in so many ways.

In this coming year, the new chair of the Judicial Division, Mr. Chris Browning of North Carolina, who hails from the JD's Lawyers Conference, has announced that the Division will focus renewed energy on issues related to judicial security, and continuing efforts to promote diversity in the judiciary and the legal profession as a whole, as well as efforts to promote the financial stability of the division and its conferences.  As a conference, we wholeheartedly support those goals.

We anticipate and encourage the continued contribution of our NCSTJ members to the efforts of the Judicial Division and to the promotion of even wider efforts to pursue the goals of diversity, inclusion, respect, and the delivery of fair and impartial justice to all in our judicial system. Our leadership team looks forward to working with all of you.

We should practice empathy with our clients, friends, spouses, children, etc. It does not matter what their religious or political persuasions are. We can use empathy in our relationships at home and away at the office, in courtrooms, in boardrooms, etc. The more we use it, the more our professional and personal endeavors will improve. . . .As empathy becomes a habit, our ability to relate and motivate others will multiply tremendously.”

‘Empathy’ at the Mediation Table, William J. Caprathe.