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July 15, 2022 Appellate Judges Conference

AJC Chair's Column

By Hon. Samuel A. Thumma, Phoenix, Arizona

The year goes fast, doesn’t it? At my age, I should say the years go fast. But either way, this is my last column as chair of the Appellate Judges Conference. It has been an honor to serve as Chair, and to serve on the AJC Executive Committee for the past several years. What an incredible group of judicial officers, attorneys, staff attorneys and other professionals. For all the good works of the AJC, the Judicial Division and the ABA, it is the people who make it worthwhile. The ability to share best practices and lessons learned, to grow collectively to better serve the public, and to make good friends along the way makes it a true privilege. Thank you, all, for making service on the AJC a joy.

The AJC is the beneficiary of incredible ABA staff members, two in particular I will mention here. Tori Jo Wible, JD Director and Chief Counsel, keeps us all out of the ditches. Former Arizona Superior Court Judge Barbara Rodriguez Mundell referred to managing judicial officers as “herding lions.” Tori Jo herds lions with excellence, commitment, perseverance and care. Along with Tori Jo, superhero and miracle worker Amanda Banninga does so many things for us AJC volunteers. As JD Conference Manager, Amanda reminds us when things are needed, reminds us again when we forget or get distracted, helps us make deadlines, calls, and agendas—to mention only a few. Thank you so much, Tori Jo and Amanda, for your service and for making things fun.

It is always good to work with really talented people, who make us better. The future leaders of the AJC are extraordinarily talented people. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Jacqueline Nguyen will serve as AJC chair starting in August 2022. If you haven’t yet met Jacqueline, you should. Along with service in private practice, Jacqueline has a rich history of public service, including serving as an Assistant United States Attorney, a state trial judge on the Los Angeles Superior Court, a federal trial judge on the United States District Court for the Central District of California, and now, for more than a decade, an appellate judge on the Ninth Circuit. She is incredible, and if you want to know more about her off the bench, I’d commend to you her profile in The First Fifteen: How Asian American Women Became Federal Judges by Judge Susan Oki Mollway, Senior Judge on the United States District Court for the District of Hawaii.

Next in line to chair the AJC after Jacqueline is Montana Supreme Court Justice Laurie McKinnon. A native of Baltimore, Laurie served in private practice and as a prosecutor in Maryland and then as a prosecutor in Montana for nearly a decade before being elected to the Montana District Court. As a trial judge, Laurie was named judge of the year by the Court Appointed Special Advocates for her work on cases involving abused and neglected children and received a federal grant to implement a drug court. Laurie then successfully ran for a seat on the Montana Supreme Court, where she has served since 2013. Among many other accolades, the Montana State Bar awarded Laurie the Karla M. Gray Equal Justice Award, presented to a Montana judge who shows dedication to improving access to Montana courts.

As you can see, the AJC is in very, very good hands in the years to come.

As I close this final column, I have a final reminder: the 2022 Appellate Judges Education (AJEI) Summit will be held November 10-13, 2022, at the DoubleTree Resort by Hilton Paradise Valley in Scottsdale, Arizona. Indiana Supreme Court Justice Chris Goff and his team have an incredible program planned, including a wonderful plenary honoring the Legacy of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. The 2022 AJEI Summit is not to be missed. And for those of you where winter is a season, let me remind you that the average high in November in Scottsdale is 75 degrees.

I look forward to our meetings and to catching up, in person, at the 2022 ABA Annual Meeting in Chicago this August. Until then, be well, stay strong, thank you for all you do, and all the very best.

Hon. Samuel A. Thumma

2021-2022 Chair, Appellate Judges Conference

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