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April 23, 2024 Appellate Judges Conference

Council of Appellate Staff Attorneys Chair's Column

Jessica Ballard-Barnett, Indianapolis, IN

The Council of Appellate Staff Attorneys (CASA) has been very active this quarter, and we are looking forward to more to come!  During the ABA Midyear Meeting, CASA members Jennifer Shircliff, Cliffie Wesson, and myself participated in the Judicial Clerkship Program (JCP).  The JCP is a program, created approximately 20 years ago by former Indiana Supreme Court Justice Frank Sullivan, to increase diversity among those who serve as law clerks in the federal and state judiciaries.

Judges from all parts of the country and from state and federal courts participated. The judges helped law students navigate an appellate scenario, often related to a real case, and provided general insight and advice to law students interested in a clerkship. This year, under the direction of former CASA Chair Cliffie Wesson, judicial law clerks also participated. 

We all found it to be a valuable experience.  The students were committed to understanding the appellate process and our roles as law clerks and staff attorneys. The students asked many questions about different facets of the job, including how to research and write a draft, the level of communication with the judge, and the reality that law clerks, as judicial employees, may have to curtail some political speech. All staff attorneys and law clerks should consider participating in this rewarding program at the ABA Midyear Meeting in 2025.

Also at the ABA Midyear Meeting, CASA held its annual Board of Directors meeting.  In that meeting, one item we discussed was strategies to increase membership. Membership Committee Chair Josh Wolinsky discussed the use of social media to recruit new members. He will be developing that strategy in the upcoming months.

Communications Committee Chair Jennifer Shircliff discussed efforts to increase the number of webinars offered by CASA. In addition to providing additional content for CASA members and other interested lawyers, these webinars would provide additional revenue for the Appellate Judges Conference, of which CASA is a member. I shared my efforts as part of a group planning a March 7 webinar about artificial intelligence’s effect on legal writing. That webinar was a follow-up to the 2023 Appellate Judges Education Institute session “Why BOTher Writing” and is available for you to purchase and watch on demand. The Board also discussed creating webinars from some of the excellent program ideas that were submitted but unable to be included at the 2024 AJEI Summit.

During the upcoming months, Communications Committee Chair Jennifer Shircliff will be working with the Appellate Judges Conference’s Programming Committee on assembling a subcommittee of judges, Council of Appellate Judges members, and CASA members to create webinar-related programs at a lower cost to encourage more members of the legal community to attend. In addition to the social-media efforts to increase membership, Membership Committee Chair Josh Wolinsky will be exploring other avenues to gain new CASA members, including education efforts to make staff attorneys and law clerks aware of the opportunities and benefits available as part of CASA membership.  CASA membership is a valuable asset to all staff attorneys and law clerks.  CASA membership provides opportunities to share experiences, participate in program planning, and receive discounts on ABA-sponsored CLE programs. 

To inquire about making the most of CASA membership, please contact me at [email protected].  I look forward to hearing from you!

Jessica Ballard-Barnett

2023-2024 Chair, AJC Council of Appellate Staff Attorneys

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