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January 23, 2023 National Conference of State Trial Judges

NCSTJ Chair's Column

Weathering The Storms And Celebrating The Brightest of 2022 Through Connections

By Hon. Vivian Medinilla, Wilmington, DE

The day was black and cold as I sat down to write this article. Apocalyptic winds and a record-breaking temperature of “-9” degrees Fahrenheit outside confirmed the news forecasters’ warnings that 2022 planned to make a historic exit. And many of us around the country experienced its thrashing. For me, the tumultuous weather was befitting of my mood as I mourned the recent loss of both of my parents—my mom to cancer and my dad to the heartbreak of losing her.

Yet during those stormy days came a gentle flurry of comforting condolences from my NCSTJ colleagues from all over the country. Through hand-written cards and emails, their messages served as reminders of why the NCSTJ is so meaningful both professionally and personally—the opportunities for unique connections, valuable learning, and fond memories. So, as I wrote this article from my chambers in Delaware, my thoughts traveled to South Carolina, where my time at the NCSTJ Spring Planning connected me to brighter moments, now fond memories, from this past year.

First, I reflected on the historic celebration of Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson’s April 7, 2022, confirmation to the United States Supreme Court. But for my involvement with the NCSTJ, I might have merely received an alert on my cell phone. Instead, I was in South Carolina at our Spring Planning Meeting, attending our Evening Path to the Bench Program. How apropos! On that day, members of the NCSTJ gathered in Charleston. There, the incomparable Judge James Lockemy, Retired Chief Judge of the South Carolina Court of Appeals, moderated a panel of South Carolinian jurists who shared the path to their respective courts with an eager and diverse audience of lawyers and law students from the Charleston County Bar Association and the Charleston School of Law. Coupled with the news of Justice Jackson’s confirmation, their stories were inspiring and educational.  They taught us about the General Assembly’s election role and its impact on the judiciary’s selection process. Thanks to the NCSTJ, I was in the right place when history was made.

Members of the National Conference of State Trial Judges, with Judge James Lockemy (center), gather during the NCSTJ Planning Meeting.

Members of the National Conference of State Trial Judges, with Judge James Lockemy (center), gather during the NCSTJ Planning Meeting.

Photo courtesy of Judge Vivian Medinilla

Second, I remembered how South Carolinians celebrated twice in 2022 with the appointment of Judge J. Michelle Childs to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Judge Childs served on the U.S. District Court for South Carolina for 12 years, previously serving as a state judge for four years, and as one of our leaders on the NCSTJ. Again, thanks to the NCSTJ, I shared a moment with her and other judges at the Youth Outreach Program this past summer through an opportunity organized by the Judicial Division’s Standing Committee on Diversity in the Judiciary. Another great memory of an outstanding South Carolinian.

Third, I was inspired by the NCSTJ’s future plans: In 2023, our work continues as we head to Columbus, Ohio for our Spring Strategic Planning meeting on April 13-15th. Thanks to Judge Marcella Holland, Chair-Elect, plans are underway for another successful meeting involving local law schools and, of course, our evening Path to the Bench program. We look forward with working with the Columbus Bar Association and local law firms to make it another successful event.

Fourth, and finally, a warm congratulations to our House of Delegate representative and former NCSTJ Chair, Judge Toni E. Clarke (Ret.) as she is now President of the National Association of Women Judges (NAWJ). In full support of the NAWJ and President Clarke, I encourage all of you to attend the NAWJ’s Mid-Year Conference from April 20-22 in Annapolis, Maryland.

Where will we be for 2023’s brighter moments? Perhaps the first ones will happen next month at the ABA Midyear Meeting in New Orleans. I look forward to seeing you there.

    Hon. Vivian Medinilla, Wilmington, DE

    Hon. Vivian Medinilla, Wilmington, DE

    2022-2023 Chair, National Conference of State Trial Judges

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