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October 07, 2022 Judicial Division

JD Chair's Column

For Our Children: A Justice System that Protects, Corrects and Prepares

By Hon. Ernestine S. Gray (Ret.), New Orleans, LA


As I begin my year as Chair of the Judicial Division, I want to start by thanking each of you for your commitment and dedication during one of the most difficult times.  I would especially like to thank Past Chairs Liz Lang-Miers, Michelle Childs and Chris Browning for their extraordinary leadership and laser focused vision on the larger issues as we worried about the safety of our family and loved ones, friends and staff.

Even as daily, even now, we hear about another family member or friend contracting COVID and as we are all weary from the effects and impacts of COVID, I am reminded of what Chair Browning said in his first Chair’s Column more than a year ago: “We are all beleaguered by the pandemic and desperately hope to have the pandemic in our rear-view mirror as soon as possible. We must, however, fight the inevitable lethargy from enduring the pandemic for so long.”

Chair Browning’s statement is certainly still true today as I take on the responsibility as chair. Now more than ever we need to double down on the important issues in order to accomplish our goals.

I chose the theme “For Our Children: A Justice System that Protects, Corrects and Prepares” with the hope of working with other Sections, Divisions and Forum to develop a platform that would help the ABA at large, and others understand the many ways that courts touch the lives of children and families every day. From dependency courts, delinquency courts, domestic relations courts, and criminal courts, these and other specialty courts deal with a host of issues ranging from adoption, custody, neglect and abuse, family violence, immigration, education, mental health, substance abuse, detention and incarceration and reentry.

When I thought about what could be done during my Bar year to bring attention to these often-neglected issues, I saw several monthly recognitions related to children and families that stood out: November (National Adoption Month), April (Child Abuse Prevention Month and Second Chance (Reentry) Month), May (Foster Care Month) and June (Reunification Month). We can seize on these monthly observances to reach across other ABA entities as natural potential partners. For example, the Commission on Youth at Risk and the Criminal Justice Section’s Reentry and Juvenile Justice Committees to name a few.

While the theme brings a new dimension to our work, it will in no way lessen our resolve and commitment to the rule of law, diversity in the profession and security for judges and courts.

With your commitment and support we will continue to work on the important issues of membership and collaborations to enhance our presence in the larger ABA. We will continue our award-winning diversity programs, our heritage month series, our Wellness Wednesdays and the First Thursday CLE  programs. What I need is for each conference to take responsibility for putting on at least one program/webinar that address one of these areas.

Please don’t forget to sign up for our open enrollment committees which are Court Technology, Diversity in the Judiciary, Ethics and Professionalism, Judicial Outreach Network, Judicial Security, Rule of Law and International Courts and the Tribal Courts Council.

Thank you in advance for your support and I look forward to welcoming you to New Orleans in February for the Midyear meeting. At which time, we hope to fulfill Chair Browning’s vision for our Division members to work together in building a house for Habitat For Humanity in an economically disadvantaged neighborhood. I know this will be a great event for the Division and the ABA that will leave a lasting contribution.

Stay well, stay tuned and stay connected!

Ernestine S. Gray (Ret.)

2022-2023 Chair, Judicial Division

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