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October 07, 2022 Judicial Division

A Welcome Return: Civics Education and Outreach at Annual in Chicago

By Hon. Diana Song Quiroga, Laredo, TX

Hugs and smiles abounded as we gathered on August 3, 2022, in person for the Annual Meeting in Chicago. After two years of Zoom programming, about two dozen judges and lawyers volunteered in person to facilitate civic learning discussions with high school and college students gathered for our bi-annual youth outreach. The 80 young participants were members of One Summer Chicago Youth Service Corps and its affiliated agencies contracted with the City of Chicago, including Boys and Girls Club, and alternative school and family services. Lively discussions broke out at each of the tables on topics including the role of the courts in the lives of the students, policy and community relations, the importance of an independent and fair judiciary, and advice about college and law school admissions. For many young attendees, this was the first time they met a lawyer or judge and heard about their careers. Judges and lawyer volunteers shared their real-life experiences and explained the critical role that lawyers, and courts play in our constitutional democratic society. Many volunteers also expressed the unique satisfaction of learning more about the personal backgrounds of the students and how they can better connect in their jobs to the younger generation. 

In the evening, Dean Nicky Booth of the University of Illinois Chicago Law School - the city’s only public law school - welcomed a panel of ground-breaking jurists to talk to law students about their paths to the bench, and the rewards and challenges of their jobs. The panel included Judge Michelle Childs, who days earlier was sworn to the D.C. Circuit, Judge Sophia Hall of the Circuit Court of Cook County, retired U.S. Air Force Colonel Linda Strite Murnane, and myself. Our moderator, Keisha Ann Lopes, a second-year law student and president of the Black Law Students Association, posed incisive questions about career and mentorship opportunities and challenges faced by female and other underrepresented lawyers and judges. The speakers, many the first in their families with professional degrees, shared about their decisions to enter the legal field and the hard work behind their achievements. Law students and other attendees later mingled during a reception held at the law school. Ms. Lopes remarked about the diversity of backgrounds of the panelists, including Judge Childs who was on the short list for potentially becoming the first Black woman to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court: “Each panelist was transparent and vulnerable about their own experiences, disrupting any monolithic conceptions about what it means to be a woman in this profession,” said Ms. Lops. As such, the “panel highlighted their individuality, while simultaneously contributing to a bigger community” of women’s advancement in the profession. 

(top) Hon. Marcella Holland, Col. Linda Murnane, Hon. Sophia Hall, Ms. Keisha Ann Lopes. (bottom) Hon. J. Michelle Childs, Hon. Diana Song Quiroga.

(top) Hon. Marcella Holland, Col. Linda Murnane, Hon. Sophia Hall, Ms. Keisha Ann Lopes. (bottom) Hon. J. Michelle Childs, Hon. Diana Song Quiroga.

Our conversation on strengthening the professional legal pipeline continues through our Heritage Months webinars. In observance of Hispanic Heritage Month, the webinar “Unidos for a Stronger Judiciary: Building a Foundation of Inclusivity for the Hispanic/Latinx pipeline to the Bar and Bench" will bring a panel of trailblazing Hispanic judges and contributors from across the country on October 11, 2022, at noon Central Time. Judge Albert Diaz from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, Judge Jenny Rivera from the New York Court of Appeals, and Sonia Miller Van-Oort founding partner of a trial firm will share reflections on their personal journeys in the legal profession and to the bench. The panel will also address historical triumphs, lessons learned, and the challenges faced as Hispanic judges and lawyers to increase diversity, promote equity, and create inclusivity in our courts, law firms, and law schools. Jill Cruz, a noted career development consultant in the Hispanic bar, will lead this important discussion.

Next, on October 27, 2022, at 2 p.m. Central Time, lawyers and judges working on disability issues take up the call issued by Judge Ernestine Gray, our JD Chair, to reflect on the role of the courts in the lives of children. In the program "Investing in A Diverse Future: Advocating for Children with Disabilities,” Judge Ann Breen-Greco, a past JD chair who conducts hearings related to IEPs and IDEA issues, Judge Tom Snook, a member of the National Conference of the Administrative Law Judiciary and a retired Social Security Judge, and Leslie Margolis, Managing Attorney for Disability Rights Maryland, will discuss how attorneys can advocate for children to lead productive and independent lives.

Lastly, as your new Chair of the Standing Committee on Diversity in the Judiciary, I am keenly aware of the formidable mantle passed on by my predecessor and mentor, our indomitable Judge Marcella Holland. I am grateful that in carrying the mission of our committee I can lean on the many members who steadily contribute their time and efforts, including the newly appointed conference liaisons:

  • Hon. Luz Elena Chapa, AJC
  • Mr. Colemon Potts & Ms. Randi Starrett, LC
  • Hon. Patricia Miles & Hon. Jenny Starr, NCALJ
  • Hon. Maurice Foley, NCFTJ
  • Hon. Shelbonnie Hall, NCSJC
  • Hon. Marian Perkins, NCSTJ

We prepare ahead for our next Youth Outreach Program in New Orleans on February 1, 2023, at the ABA Midyear Meeting, and the evening bench and bar panel there. Please let me or Danielle Norwood, our committee program manager, know of your interest in volunteering for any of these upcoming events. Thank you for the work you do every day to enrich and strengthen the service of the judiciary in our communities!

Hon. Diana Song Quiroga

Laredo, TX

Judge Diana Song Quiroga is a U.S. Magistrate Judge in Laredo, Texas and the 2022-2023 Chair of the Judicial Division's Standing Committee on Diversity in the Judiciary.