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October 06, 2023 National Conference of State Trial Judges

NCSTJ Chair's Column

By Hon. Marcella Holland, City, MD

I am honored and pleased to serve as the Chair of the ABA Judicial Division’s National Conference of State Trial Judges (NCSTJ) for this 2023-2024 year. NCSTJ continues to focus on the current needs of our members, providing useful programs, activities, and tools to help them in their judicial careers and in reaching out to the larger community of law students, lawyers, judges, and the public on issues of importance to justice and democracy.

Once again it was a pleasure to meet in-person and see so many of our members. Our conference is a very collegial one and we enjoy learning from each other and other esteemed members of the bar and judiciary. But we also like to reminisce, catch up on current events in our lives and, of course, have some fun. We did all of that at 2023 ABA Annual Meeting. Many, many thanks to our outgoing Chair, Judge Vivian Medinilla, who led us through last year’s successful programs all the while caring for elderly parents and having them both pass away during her year. Despite the challenges in her personal life, she took the time to carry out our business with aplomb and to mentor me for my chairmanship. I hope to continue to lead in her steady, caring, and unflappable manner. Thanks also to my now Chair-Elect, Judge Denise Langford-Morris for her continuing support and in particular her planning of our Town Hall Meeting. Kudos also to our new Vice Chair, Judge Marguerite Downing, who was and will continue to chair our Membership Committee. As a result of her leadership, NCSTJ won the membership challenge this past bar year, increasing our membership more than any other conference in the Judicial Division. Our members are to be congratulated for their continuing efforts to bring new judges into our conference. Thanks also to Judge Margaret Masunaga of Hawaii, who was our conference’s Secretary. She continues to be our liaison to the Judges Journal and is now Chair of the Judges Journal Editorial Board.

On Day 1 at the ABA Annual Meeting, our conference continued our participation in the JD’s Diversity Day. Our distinguished opening panel represented all 6 conferences of the Judicial Division, and included NCSTJ’s Past Chair, Vivian Medinilla. The ever-popular Youth Outreach Program was well-received by the students and participants. In addition to our usual discussion of the rule of law with high school students, this year featured a new program with Girl Scouts on mediation. In the evening, a panel of stellar judges spoke about their paths to the bench and gave valuable advice to young lawyers at our Bench to Bar program, co-sponsored by the Colorado Bar Association.

On Day 2, our Town Hall Meeting was the talk of the Judicial Division and others at the Annual Meeting. We presented a program called The Art of Handling Key Complexities in High Profile Cases. We were fortunate to have Judge Clifton Newman of South Carolina, who handled the infamous Murdaugh murder trial, and Judge Eric Davis of Delaware, who handled the equally famous Dominion v. Fox News case. Both judges reflected on the challenges these high-profile cases presented and were gracious in sharing their thoughts on a wide array of topics, including best practices for judges in dealing with intense media attention. Our Chair-Elect Judge Denise Langford-Morris moderated the conversation and kept the conversation focused on the refined art of judging. This successful program was taped by ABA Media. At our business meeting, our new Instagram account was introduced elections were held and a painting was presented to celebrate and thank our outgoing chair Judge Vivian Medinilla.

Judges Denise Langford-Morris, Vivian Medinilla and Marcella Holland with Town Hall panelists Judge Eric Davis and Judge Clifton Newman

Judges Denise Langford-Morris, Vivian Medinilla and Marcella Holland with Town Hall panelists Judge Eric Davis and Judge Clifton Newman

Courtesy of Marcella Holland

If that was not enough, our seminar called Autism Awareness: How Courts Can Improve Access to Justice won Showcase status and was presented to the JD and other ABA sections. Attendees were treated to a panel of skilled expert judges, lawyers, and other professionals, who were very informative in identifying and explaining the issues that professionals will encounter when persons with autism spectrum disorder come to court. This seminar was organized by Judge Stephanie Domitrovich and moderated by Judge Christina Klineman, both members of the NCSTJ Executive Committee.

On Day 3, our Annual Meeting concluded with our usual NCSTJ dinner on Friday evening. It was our time to network, reminisce, relax and enjoy each other’s company, always a highlight of our Midyear and Annual Meetings.

As state trial judges, we cover many different types of cases and therefore NCSTJ covers many topics and leads in discussions involving state courts and judges. It takes a lot of effort and a group of willing workers. So, on behalf of the 2023-2024 Executive Committee, we encourage and welcome your involvement and look forward to another successful year. Please contact Amy Dasgupta, our program specialist, at [email protected] with your interest in joining one of the below committees. Thank you.

Standing Committees:




Judicial Outreach




Hon. Marcella Holland

2023-2024 Chair, National Conference of State Trial Judges

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