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July 15, 2022 National Conference of Specialized Court Judges

NCSCJ Chair's Column

A Bridge to Tomorrow

By Hon. Phinia Aten, Conyers, GA

Leading the National Conference of Specialized Court Judges has been one of the most rewarding professional experiences of my career. My capacity for deep community building, empathetic leadership and institutional competency grew by leaps and bounds. The old African proverb, “There are three friends in this world: courage, sense and insight,” rang true. In fact, I became steadfast best friends with these three virtues while navigating the joys and challenges of chief executive officer. 

Working with JD Chair Chris Browning was particularly inspiring and purposeful. Building upon Immediate Past NSCSJ Chair Judge Ron Ramsey’s legacy as architect of our “Jazz With The Judges” and obtaining full ABA recognition and sponsorship of the event was very rewarding.

In my past articles we explored the generous opportunities for flourishing personal growth, community building and career development that intentional involvement in the ABA readily affords active members. More than just words of encouragement, they were my testimony. There is an adage that love needs a witness. The same holds true for individual and collective success. We are witnesses, one to another, of our own and the NCSCJ’s resourcefulness, resilience, reliability and resolve to uphold the rule of law and our nation’s best ideals of justice, fairness and judicial independence and competency.

I am proud of the collaborations and important points of connection we sustained and strengthened with the JD, such as the Bench and Bar Academy and North Georgia Judicial Summit, as well as our members’ meaningful participation on a host of subcommittees and special projects. All in all, I believe we started and are finishing this year as strong as possible and greater than I could imagine given the ever-changing legal landscape over which the pandemic dynamics still hold tremendous sway.

Rescheduling our annual Traffic Academy from June to October in response to concerns over resuming conference travel is a prime example of Covid-19’s lingering impact on our operations. Nevertheless we persisted in maintaining our membership population and robust governance meetings. Further, the JD Gavel Talks podcast, hosted and produced by our member Judge Dick Ginkowski, have never been more popular. Across ABA entities, he has worked diligently to keep the topics relevant and the list of engaging, expert speakers worthy of our listening ears. Judge Sidney Butcher has worked energetically to develop a co-sponsored domestic violence seminar. Our Conference includes both international and military courts. We were able to keep a watchful and informed eye on the critical humanitarian and legal issues that our colleagues in Afghanistan, Poland, Ukraine and U.S. military courts have been facing due to the phenomenal contributions of Col. Linda Murnane and Judge Mike Pietruszka. We built a great bridge to tomorrow and Chair-Elect Judge Andra Sparks’ upcoming term. NCSCJ will be in good hands.

There is a Buddhist maxim that says, “If we are facing in the right direction, all we have to do is keep on walking.” NCSCJ is well-prepared to keep moving forward and rise to the next level of growth and opportunities all because of each one of you, our leadership and dedicated members, as well as our staff – particularly Danielle Norwood and Amanda Banninga. It was my honor to serve and grow with you. Thanks everyone for a year well done!

Hon. Phinia Aten, Conyers, GA

Hon. Phinia Aten, Conyers, GA

2021-2022 Chair, National Conference of Specialized Court Judges

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