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April 23, 2024 Judicial Division

The Standing Committee on Diversity in the Judiciary’s Civic Youth Outreach Program

During the 2024 ABA Midyear Meeting in Louisville, Kentucky

Hon. Marian E. Perkins, Chicago, IL

As part of the civic youth outreach and engagement efforts of the Standing Committee on Diversity in the Judiciary, more than 35 ABA-member state and federal judges  and lawyers met and talked with more than 150 middle school and high school students on January 31, 2024, during the 2024 ABA Midyear Meeting in Louisville, Kentucky. Months of planning preceded the event, with members of the planning sub-committee identifying the host schools and then collaborating with the selected schools’ administrators to develop the outreach programs. 

A group of volunteer judges arrived in the morning at Central High School located at 1130 West Chestnut in Louisville, Kentucky, for the first civic youth outreach program. Central High School, founded in 1870, was the first African American high school in the state of Kentucky. Located in downtown Louisville, Central High School was a segregated school for African American students until 1956. Central High School has produced prominent elected and government officials, judges, educators, athletes, and community leaders who live and work in Louisville. One of its most famous alumni was Muhammad Ali who frequently returned to the school to motivate its students.

Judge Al Wong meets with students at Central High School.

Judge Al Wong meets with students at Central High School.

Today, Central High School is a career magnet academy.  Joe Gutmann, the Coordinator of the Central High School Law and Government Magnet Program, is a lawyer by training who has led the program for over a decade. He is a tireless advocate for his students and is a past recipient of the Louisville Bar Association Trailblazer Award and the 2010 Street Law Educator of the year. The Central High School Law and Government Magnet Program is offered in partnership with the University of Louisville, Louis D. Brandeis School of Law to provide an academically challenging curriculum that prepares students for possible career paths in law and government services.

In the afternoon, Dr. Gregory E. Ross, President, and Head of School at the West End School, 3628 Virginia Avenue in Louisville, Kentucky, welcomed the judges to the school’s historic grounds. Built in 1923, by one of the country’s first African American architects, the building houses a boys’ boarding school for students in elementary and middle grades. The school provides a safe and structured environment for boys, combines academic rigor, and character development, and instills in them the responsibility to achieve their highest potential. The judges were impressed with meeting the students and learning more about the school’s mission to create the next generation of change agents.

Volunteers and students listen to Dr. Gregory E. Ross's welcome remarks.

Volunteers and students listen to Dr. Gregory E. Ross's welcome remarks.

The students from West End School and the Law and Government program at Central High School attended the ABA Civic Youth Outreach Program. The judges were given tours of the schools, where they saw a wonderful school library, beautiful artwork on the walls, a music room with violins, and other instruments. They met with the students, in small groups, to analyze the Bill of Rights and to determine which of the top three of the ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution they would keep. There was robust discussion and enthusiasm on the part of the students and the judges. At the end of the session, the principal selected a person from each group to report on their conclusions.

Judge Diana Song Quiroga, U.S. Magistrate Judge, Southern District of Texas chairs the Standing Committee on Diversity in the Judiciary. Colonel Linda Strite Murnane, Justice of the High Court for the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and former Executive Director of the Kentucky Commission of Human Rights Commission, led the Civic Youth Outreach planning sub-committee. Judge Shelbonnie Coleman-Hall, Judge of the Mobile Municipal Court in Mobile, Alabama, and former Chair of the ABA Judicial Division, National Conference of Specialized Courts, coordinated the morning program at Central High School. Judge Lorraine Lee, former Chief Administrative Law Judge of the Washington State Office of Administrative Hearings, organized the afternoon outreach program at West End School.

ABA Judicial Division judges who engaged with the youth helped to cultivate in them a greater interest in education, civics, and the field of law. The energy, enthusiasm, and active participation from the students, coupled with the support from the school principals and teachers, helped to make this year’s youth outreach program a success and memorable experience for all.

Judge Marian E. Perkins

Circuit Court of Cook County

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