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April 08, 2022 National Conference of Specialized Court Judges

NCSCJ Chair's Column

Self Care is the Best Care

By Hon. Phinia Aten, Conyers, GA

Moving beyond the Covid-19 pandemic sometimes seems like Charlie Brown trying to kick the football. As soon he does the ball is pulled away. 

Unlike Charlie Brown the ABA didn’t fall down when the Midyear Meeting slated for to Seattle switched to a virtual platform. Meetings were held, ideas exchanged and continuing legal education programs presented and attended but, frankly, while long distance is supposed to be the next best thing to being there, it’s still a distant second. We need – and miss – the human contact and interaction and long for when the pandemic is truly in the rear-view mirror.

We experienced a national sea change in CDC pandemic protocols and public attitudes and behaviors relating to COVID-19 since our virtual Midyear Meeting. Here in Georgia, the Plexiglass is coming down in some courtrooms and masks are optional in most commercial establishments. Regardless of your local situation our strong sentiment is our judges across the country should be applauded for all we’ve done to look after each other and keep the ship we call Justice as tidy as possible and afloat for our plethora of passengers – colleagues, court staff, litigators, law enforcement officers or the public. Thank you for all the knots you tied to just hang in there and ensure that the safe haven our specialized court judges provide for millions across America remains accessible and equipped to handle the legal challenges of our most vulnerable citizens and the businesses who rely on our decisions.

Rising to the “return to normal” many seek will be daunting and especially stressful. The mantra and practice of self-care is worthy of reiteration here because as judges we’re accustomed to being of service and often reluctant to acknowledge our own humanity. We can’t take our health and wellness for granted. There is – and will continue to be – much to be done for our courts and communities but we are at a respite where it is most apropos to take a deep breath, long exhale and appreciate what has already been accomplished during these nearly three unprecedented years. You earned it – and you’ll need it too. A Zulu proverb epitomizes this admonition well: “Without life there is nothing.”

We are truly grateful for everything our ABA Judicial Division staff do to keep the NCSCJ going strong in your service. Presenting valuable programs is a highly collaborative effort between the ABA and members. The staff are both the glue that holds everything together and the oil that keeps it all running smoothly. NCSCJ welcomes our new program specialist, Danielle Norwood.

As we look forward to the ABA Annual Meeting in Chicago this summer - hopefully with the pandemic behind us - there are important programs worthy of your attention and participation. We hope you participated in the JD’s Bench and Bar Academy in Atlanta eariler this week, organized by our very own Judge Ernestine Gray. Judge Gray may be officially “retired” from the bench in New Orleans but she continues to be an active ABA participant and continues her passion of advocating for justice for those who may not have a strong voice in the process.

NCSCJ is likewise proud to present the National Traffic Academy bringing first-rate educational programming and resources to judges, judicial officers, prosecutors, and defense attorneys to help improve traffic court operations. This year’s program is scheduled for June 13-15 in Denver. Check out the JD's Events & CLE page or emails for additional information about these events.

Lastly, as busy as we may get, please take a moment to check in with a friend or colleague and take the time to do something special for yourself. Be well.

Hon. Phinia Aten, Conyers, GA

Hon. Phinia Aten, Conyers, GA

2021-2022 Chair, National Conference of Specialized Court Judges

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