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January 23, 2023 Judicial Division

JD Chair's Column

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

Time flies when you’re having fun!

Or at least it has for me as I have served as Chair of the ABA’s Judicial Division since September 1, 2022. Perhaps more impactfully, my role as Chair has given me the opportunity not only to joyfully serve the Judicial Division, but also the children of our community.

When I assumed the responsibilities as Chair of the Division, I chose the theme: “For Our Children: A Justice System that Protects, Corrects and Prepares.” In connection with this theme I envisioned collaborating with other ABA entities to highlight the many ways courts impact the lives of children and their families on a daily basis.

I am happy to report that many entities have answered the call to schedule and plan programs that relate to our theme and goals. One outstanding example was a webinar in October during Disability Awareness Month entitled: Investing in a Diverse Future: Advocating for Children with Disabilities. In addition, several programs are being planned for the Midyear Meeting:

  1. Dare to be Different: Think Outside the Box to Improve Juvenile Justice in your Community, February 3, 2022, from 1:00-2:30 p.m. at the Sheraton sponsored by the Judicial Division
  2. Sending Children to Angola Prison Death Row: Implications for Families, Justice and Reform, February 2, 2023, from 1:30-3:00 p.m. sponsored by the Criminal Justice Section.
  3. Extra-ordinary Writs, February 2, 2023, at 3:30 p.m. sponsored by the Criminal Justice Section’s Juvenile Justice Committee.

While I have represented you at several discussions and meetings, there are just two forums that I want to highlight because they point to the relevance of this year’s theme. First, I represent the Division as a member of the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession’s Parenthood and Child Caregiver Study Advisory Council which “seeks to assess the prevalence and impact of the motherhood penalty and other caregiver bias on the advancement and retention of women in the legal profession.” This Council has had multiple discussions and meetings in furtherance of this cause.

Second, I have represented you at discussions and meetings surrounding legislation from the 117th Congress on judicial security. We were elated at the passage of S.2340, the Daniel Anderl Act, which protects the personal information of federal judges, which in turn protects their families, including their children. I also welcomed the news that the Biden administration rescinded waivers granted by prior administrations that allowed child welfare providers to use religion to discriminate against potential foster parents. I am proud that our attention and work in these areas raise awareness about child welfare.

Looking forward to the next three months, my request is that you continue to be membership ambassadors. Please invite your friends and associates to join the ABA and the Judicial Division. We have gained 250 new members since September and are looking forward to gaining more members from our new relationship with the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges. Finally, I am also requesting, if your conference has not already done so, that you take the responsibility for planning a program/webinar on either diversity, heritage month, “Wellness Wednesday,” or the “First Thursday CLE” program. Please let me know if there is anything that I can do to assist in these efforts.

As judicial officers and lawyers I urge you to continue to think about the many ways courts around the country impact the lives of children and families as together we continue to seek opportunities to advance the wellbeing of our nation’s children and families.

See you at Midyear in New Orleans! Laissez le bon temps rouler!

Ernestine S. Gray (Ret.)

2022-2023 Chair, Judicial Division

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