The National Conference of Federal Trial Judges (NCFTJ) was established 50 years ago during the 1972 ABA Annual Meeting in San Francisco. For half a century, we have served as the voice of federal trial judges, improving the administration of justice throughout our 94 districts. Most recently, we have advocated for better judicial security, new technology in the courtroom, and greater diversity among our law clerk ranks. During the ABA Midyear Meeting in New Orleans, in February 2023, the NCFTJ celebrated our 50th anniversary in a variety of ways.
First, many of our NCFTJ members volunteered to serve in the ABA Judicial Clerkship Program (JCP), which introduces law students with diverse backgrounds to judges and law clerks, informing them of the life-long benefits of clerking. During the three-day program, law students explore legal issues, perform legal research, prepare legal memoranda, and defend their positions. There are also sessions where the judges and law clerks provide the students with feedback on their resumes. I was assigned to the Black Team comprised of Judge James Gilbert, Chief Administrative Law Judge, U. S. Postal Service, and diverse law students from Southern University, University of New Hampshire, University of Maryland, University of Arizona, University of the Pacific, Pepperdine, and University of California-Irvine. Team Black’s work product explored a highly publicized case examining whether the Elections Clause bars state court review of state laws governing federal elections under state constitutional provisions. This is the case that tests the so-called “independent state legislature” theory: the idea that the Constitution gives state legislatures nearly unfettered authority to regulate federal elections, with little to no interference from state courts. The young men and women were rockstars.
Second, NCFTJ continued the tradition of honoring judicial trailblazers. I am thankful to Chief Judge Nannette Jolivette Brown (NCFTJ Executive Committee Member) and the judges of the Eastern District of Louisiana for hosting our recognitions program in the Hale Boggs Federal Courthouse. I am grateful that Judges Brown, Donna Phillips Currault (Immediate Past President, FBA New Orleans), Heather A. Welch (Chair, ABA Judicial Clerkship Program), and Toni E. Clarke (President, National Association of Women Judges) delivered welcoming remarks and gave financial support to make our ceremony the best and largest ever. Judge Frank J. Bailey (Ret.) of Massachusetts presented the U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Recognition to Hon. Douglas D. Dodd (Ret.), who served in the Middle District of Louisiana for over twenty years and was known to treat those who came before him with respect and empathy. Judge Gina L. Simms of the District of Maryland presented the U.S. Magistrate Judge Recognition to Hon. Karen Wells Roby, Eastern District of Louisiana, a former president of the Federal Magistrate Judges Association who has served on the bench with distinction for twenty-three years. Judge Cathy Bissoon of the Western District of Pennsylvania presented the U.S. District Judge Recognition to Hon. Mary Ann Vial Lemmon who has served in the Eastern District of Louisiana since 1996, and has been extraordinarily active in the ABA, serving in many leadership roles and chairing the Coordinating Council of the Justice Center and NCFTJ. Judge Richard F. Boulware, II of the District of Nevada presented the U.S. District Judge Recognition to Hon. Martin L.C. Feldman posthumously. U.S. District Judge Barry W. Ashe accepted on behalf of his Eastern District of Louisiana colleague who was the second longest serving active federal district judge in the country when he passed last year at age 87. Hon. Diana Song Quiroga of the Southern District of Texas, NCFTJ Immediate Past Chair, gave closing remarks congratulating the four trailblazers.
Third, NCFTJ held an elegant 50th anniversary dinner at the home of Chief Judge Brown and her husband, Marcus Brown, executive vice president and general counsel of Entergy Corporation. Attendees included a majority of the NCFTJ Executive Committee and their spouses. A former NCFTJ Chair, Judge J. Michelle Childs of the D.C. Circuit, carved out time to help us celebrate. The evening was capped off with an elaborate cake to honor our “surprise guest” Judge Nannette A. Baker, another former NCFTJ Chair, on her last official day of active service as a U.S. Magistrate Judge for the Eastern District of Missouri.
In closing, I continue to enjoy serving with the energetic and motivated district judges, bankruptcy judges, magistrate judges, and tax court judges who comprise our current Executive Committee. I welcome you to join in our work. Happy 50th Birthday, NCFTJ.