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January 31, 2022 Appellate Judges Conference

AJC Chair's Column

By Hon. Samuel A. Thumma, Phoenix, Arizona

The 17th Annual Appellate Judges Education Institute (AJEI) Summit is now in the books, and it was (in a word) fabulous. More than 300 federal and state appellate justices and judges, appellate lawyers, appellate staff attorneys, military justice participants, law professors and others gathered in Austin, Texas, from November 11-14, 2021, for the Summit. Particularly given that the pandemic caused a “gap year” with no AJEI Summit in 2020, it was a true joy to see people again, in three dimensions, for the event.

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit Judge Al Diaz was the incredible Chair for the 2021 AJEI Summit. Al and an amazingly talented planning committee faced unbelievable obstacles but also obtained incredible results. The panel discussions were challenging, at times provocative and always stimulating. The Summit also included the presentation of the National Judicial College’s Inaugural Sandra Day O’Connor Award, established to honor a judge for outstanding contributions to justice, with the first honoree being Justice O’Connor herself. Summit attendees engaged with and learned from each other and, as always, there was time for networking and socializing. With a Texas flair, the 2021 AJEI Summit included a piano/violin duet by Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan L. Hecht and Justice Brett Busby; a performance by Mariachi Los Lobos, a fabulous mariachi band from Lehman High School; and a wonderful opening reception at the Bullock Texas State History Museum.

The program ended with a preview of the 2022 AJEI Summit by Indiana Supreme Court Justice Christopher Goff, who will serve as Chair of that effort. The 2022 AJEI Summit will be held at the DoubleTree Resort by Hilton Paradise Valley in Scottsdale, Arizona, and will be held November 10-13, 2022. The weather typically is nice here in mid-November, so please, please, please mark your calendars, plan on attending, and stay tuned for further developments on what will be a rewarding, and fun, 2022 AJEI Summit.

The AJC also is continuing its efforts in many other ways. The ABA Midyear Meeting, on February 9-12, 2022 comes quickly to mind. Along with outstanding programming opportunities, a significant highlight will be the Judicial Clerkship Program, which introduces diverse law students from around the country to judges and law clerks and educates them as to the lifelong benefits of a judicial clerkship. The Conference has been a key supporter of the program and, as in past years, we urge you to help us mentor the bright young minds who are the future of our profession. And the recent decision for the Midyear Meeting to be held remotely expands the ability of many judges to participate in the Judicial Clerkship Program.

Let me highlight just two other efforts by the Conference.

First, Texas Fourth Appellate District Justice Luz Elena Chapa continues her great work as Chair of our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion efforts. A significant recent focus has been programming, which has been fabulous and included a wonderful panel at the 2021 AJEI Summit. Luz will continue to look for programming opportunities. Still, we all strive to do more, including in recruiting and developing members. Luz will continue to be our leader, but we all will be active and participatory in that effort.

Second, Georgia Court of Appeals Chief Judge Christopher McFadden and New Mexico Supreme Court Justice David Thomson continue to Chair our Programming efforts. Chris and David do incredible things within the Conference and are undertaking efforts to expand our relationship with other entities within the JD and the ABA. Not surprisingly, they are actively involved in repurposing some of the programs at the 2021 AJEI Summit for programming through the JD. Again, stay tuned as those programs become more broadly available.

Until next time, all the very best and stay healthy and strong (and here’s wishing us all a less eventful 2022).

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