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April 08, 2022 Appellate Judges Conference

AJC Chair's Column

By Hon. Samuel A. Thumma, Phoenix, Arizona

Happy spring, and isn’t it about time? Living in a desert, I have mixed emotions about spring. Typically, spring means the arrival of spring training baseball here in the Cactus League. As I write this, however, the lockout has put that in jeopardy. But there is always hope that pitchers and catchers will report soon and that the standoff will be resolved by the time this is published. Spring also means that summer is just around the corner. And it gets warm here in Phoenix (some might say hot). So, for now, I will take it day to day, trying to enjoy each one.

The ABA Midyear Meeting in Seattle is now a recent memory. Given our virtual format, we could not catch up in person. But it was great to see people on Zoom and catch up that way. We had a wonderful business meeting of the AJC Executive Committee Sunday morning, and were done long before the football game later that day.

The ABA Midyear Meeting featured another incredible Judicial Clerkship Program, with significant AJC participation making it so. In its 22nd year, the JCP is a joint effort of the Judicial Division and the ABA Council for Diversity in the Educational Pipeline, with support from LexisNexis.® It offers a diverse group of law students an intensive look at service as a law clerk. Judge Heather Welch and attorney Robert Saunooke ably served as JCP co-chairs.

More than 90 students from 15 law schools in 10 states spent parts of three days working remotely with more than 30 judicial officers at all levels of our courts. The students watched two oral arguments presented to the Washington Supreme Court, one case addressing sentencing in a murder case and the other a failure to warn issue in a products liability case. For many students, this was their first opportunity to see our appellate system in action. Washington State Chief Justice Steven Gonzalez and his law clerks then participated in a question-and-answer session about clerkships. Students also heard from ABA President Reginald Turner, President-Elect Deborah Enix-Ross, and Executive Director Jack Rives, as well as Cal Gonzales, Chair of the ABA Council for Diversity in the Educational Pipeline, and JD Chair Chris G. Browning. The students received invaluable advice about the skills judges look for in law clerks, the hiring process, how to obtain a clerkship, and much more. Among many others, panelists included 2018 JCP participant Alexander Mallory, who currently serves as a Law Clerk for United States District Judge Diane Humetewa.

One of the objectives of the JCP is to give the students the opportunity to work on a case with a judge and discuss the issues, undertake legal research, arrive at a suggested outcome, and develop an outline for an opinion. Led by Frank Sullivan, currently Professor at the Indiana University McKinney School of Law and former Indiana Supreme Court Justice, the students, with guidance from the judges, tackled a research assignment addressing whether a state’s denial of an application for concealed-carry licenses violated the Second Amendment. At the end of the program, Professor Sullivan moderated a session where the students asked questions of the judge volunteers.

The students also had the chance to attend the ABA’s Spirit of Excellence Awards presentation, celebrating individuals who work to promote a more racially and ethnically diverse legal profession. In 2022, five outstanding leaders (lawyers Gabriel Galanda and Kay Hodge, Chief Justice Gonzalez, Justice Adrienne Nelson, and Judge Carlos Moore) were honored for their work in promoting racial and ethnic diversity in the law.

For the first time, the JCP also is implementing “Pod Programs.” These will allow students to participate in four Zoom sessions over the next year with the judges they worked with on their research exercise, which will include discussing tips on seeking clerkship positions. Congratulations, all, who participated in the 2022 JCP.

While on the topic of great programs, Indiana Supreme Court Justice Chris Goff and his Education Committee are continuing their planning efforts for the 2022 Appellate Judges Education (AJEI) Summit. The 2022 AJEI Summit will be held November 10-13, 2022, at the DoubleTree Resort by Hilton Paradise Valley in Scottsdale, Arizona. Details will follow, but a cornerstone of the 2022 AJEI Summit will be a plenary program on the Legacy of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. It is not to be missed.

Finally, by the time this is published, the JD’s March 2022 National Judicial Outreach Week (NJOW) will have come and gone. NJOW is a focused effort to bring attention to the role of courts in preserving the rule of law throughout the country. Thank you, for those who participated. And if you did not, look for opportunities to participate in NJOW 2023.

Until next time, stay well and be well, and do good.

Hon. Samuel A. Thumma

2021-2022 Chair, Appellate Judges Conference

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