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October 06, 2023 National Conference of Federal Trial Judges

NCFTJ Chair's Column

By Hon. Richard Boulware, Las Vegas, NV

Greetings from the National Conference of Federal Trial Judges. I am in the incoming chair of the Conference and I am a United States District Court Judge sitting in Las Vegas, Nevada. The NCFTJ is the “voice” of federal trial judges in the ABA. We are here to give voice and support to federal trial judges. We also seek to support the ABA and broader legal community in advancing the practice of law in our country. As the new chair of the NCFTJ, I want to share with you my vision for using our voice to support all federal trial judges and improving the practice of law. In the next twelve months, the NCFTJ will focus on three areas: educational programming, judicial independence, and expanded outreach to other ABA sections and conferences.

Educational Programming

First, the federal trial judges will seek to build upon and expand ABA and NCFTJ programs connecting federal trial judges with high school students, law school students, and young lawyers. In the upcoming year, through our “Sowing Justice” initiative, we plan to have programming that connects federal judges with students at these three levels.

The NCFTJ has and will continue to identify high school settings with students who have not had extensive exposure to lawyers or judges from a career prospect perspective. We know that there are able and enthusiastic high school students who would relish and benefit from a program involving direct contact between federal trial judges and students. We will be sending federal trial judges (and recruiting local judges) to high school settings in underrepresented and underserved legal communities.

We are also focused on connecting with college students who may have an interest in a legal career. For these students, we understand that we may be able to provide encouragement and insight as to a future legal career. We recognize that there are many college students who have not had any direct interactions with federal trial judges. We hope to leverage the novelty of our interaction to foster a consideration of a possible future career that college students might not have otherwise considered.

Finally, NCFTJ will not only continue to support the ABA’s Judicial Clerkship program, but we will increase our outreach to law schools and law students through law school visits and virtual panels. Again, we will focus on those law school communities that are underrepresented and/or those that may need additional support regarding their clerkship programming. We want as many law school students as possible to be able ask our members about various topics, including clerkships.

Judicial Independence

The NCFTJ will also seek this year to find additional ways for the Conference and the ABA to support federal trial judges and the rule of law. As is abundantly clear, we live in a time of increased polarization and animosity within our nation. More specifically, trial judges, who are regularly in front of and engaged with the public, are facing increasing public hostility directed at them personally. Judges are being openly attacked in the media and on social media for simply doing their jobs as public servants. Of deep concern to me is that much of the basis for these attacks appears to derive from either a misunderstanding about how the legal process works or a myopic focus on the particular background of the judge in terms of who appointed them. Since judges who are in the midst of a case may not be able to directly respond to such attacks, the NCFTJ will seek to find ways that the ABA can respond more quickly and contemporaneously when such attacks arise. These attacks undermine judicial independence and the rule of law. We must find additional ways to support our trial judges throughout the country.

Outreach to Other Conferences/Sections

The final goal that I wish pursue this year is expanding the working relationship between the NCFTJ and other sections of the ABA. Our membership has years of experience as trial judges presiding over all manner of trials. We want to share our knowledge and observations about “best trial practices” with other sections within the ABA. To this end, NCFTJ is developing trial training programs that can be shared with other sections, including panels and mock trial programs. I anticipate that by end of next year we will have planned and participated in several collaborative training programs with other sections of the ABA.

These are my goals for the NCFTJ this year. I hope you will join me in supporting our federal trial judges and expanding our outreach. I would love to hear from you if you have any questions or ideas!

Hon. Richard Boulware

2023-2024 Chair, National Conference of Federal Trial Judges

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