It is with great excitement, and a humble heart, that I accept the significant responsibility to serve as national president of the FBA for 2016 to 2017. I thank all of the 18,000-plus members of the FBA—and all of our chapters, sections, and divisions throughout the country—for this incredible honor.
I care deeply about the FBA—an association with which I have been involved, on the local and national level, for more than 20 years—and I am quite proud of the significant contributions the FBA has made to the federal judiciary, and to the cause of justice, in our nearly 100-year history.
While there are many individuals to thank and congratulate for our recent successes, I take this opportunity to commend Karen Silberman, the executive director of both the FBA and our nonprofit Foundation—along with Stacy King, Jane Zaretskie, Sarah Perlman, and many others on the FBA staff—who have worked tirelessly to increase our national stature. Jonathan Hafen, our national membership committee chair, has done a remarkable job of increasing membership among attorneys while, at the same time, starting law student chapters in a majority of law schools throughout the United States. Bruce Moyer, counsel to the FBA’s Government Relations Committee (GRC) and a friend to all on Capitol Hill—along with West Allen, head of the GRC—deserve significant praise for their joint efforts to let those in Congress know that the FBA is, and will always remain, devoted exclusively and faithfully to the federal judiciary and all who practice in federal court.
Finally, I thank Mark Vincent, the FBA’s outgoing national president, and Rob Clark, the FBA’s outgoing general counsel, for their respective efforts and continuing dedication to the FBA. If you know Mark and Rob, you will undoubtedly agree that these are two of the nicest and most decent people you will ever interact with. Mark serves as an assistant United States attorney in Salt Lake City, and Rob is a partner at the Parr Brown firm in Salt Lake. Mark and Rob gave tirelessly and selflessly to the FBA not only this past year, but for much of the past decade. Rob is the architect of the FBA’s governance structure, and was the author of the FBA’s constitution and bylaws—a Herculean drafting effort. Mark gave of himself in rather incredible ways, over many years, both before and during his presidency. First, by serving with distinction on the board of directors, as treasurer, and as president-elect. Second, while president, by visiting chapters far and wide, large and small, in an effort to build relationships and broadcast the great work the FBA is doing to assist federal judges and all those in the public and private sectors who litigate daily in our federal trial and appellate courts. Mark and Rob have devoted countless volunteer hours to the benefit of the FBA, and we owe them both our thanks and sincere gratitude.
I am proud and excited to announce that this year, and in the years going forward, the FBA—while maintaining its long-standing dedication to the federal judiciary—will also be focusing on civics and service to others. To that end, the FBA will be engaged in three distinct, but related initiatives: Civics, SOLACE, and Community Service.
The FBA plans to launch a national civics education initiative whereby we will:
- Encourage federal judges to go into middle and high schools to meet with students, teach them about the Third Branch of government and what it means to be a judge, and perform naturalization ceremonies in those schools (so the students have an opportunity to see a federal court proceeding and witness the Constitution in action);
- Encourage young people, along with their teachers, to come into federal courthouses to meet—in a “court camp” setting—with federal judges, law clerks, assistant U.S. attorneys, assistant federal public defenders, representatives from probation and pretrial, and members of law enforcement (FBI, U.S. Marshals, other agencies) to better understand how the federal court system operates; to participate in mock sentencing scenarios and other scenarios related to federal court practice; and to have an opportunity to meet and ask questions of those who work in the federal courts—in order to learn, for example, how a judge decides a case; what a probation officer does on a daily basis; and the importance of a college education and educational opportunities thereafter;
- Help to celebrate “Constitution Day and Citizenship Day” on or close to Sept. 17 each year (it was observed on Friday, Sept. 16 this year) by encouraging federal judges to then hold naturalization ceremonies; and
- Conduct two national civics essay contests—one for middle school students, and another for high school students.
I am proud to report that these civics efforts are the result, in large part, of several brainstorming sessions FBA leadership held with officials at the Administrative Office of the United States Courts (AO). An article by Jim Duff, the AO director, follows in these pages and explains this effort in much greater detail. Suffice to say, the FBA is honored and privileged to be working together with the AO in this important, national civics effort.
To initiate the commencement of this civics effort on a nationwide basis, the FBA will be reaching out to individual judges across the country, as well as to chapter presidents and Circuit Vice Presidents, and sharing civics materials with them. The AO has kindly granted the FBA access to the AO’s website materials on civics, and the FBA will be organizing those materials on its own website to make it easier for judges to interact with students. Accordingly, if a judge only has a half-hour to meet with students, there will be materials that contain civics exercises that can be completed in a half-hour. If, on the other hand, a judge has one or two hours to meet with students, there will be civics materials that can be conducted within that longer time frame. These materials will include the popular “Tell it to the Judge” sentencing scenarios written by the AO and tested by federal judges and high school students at the District of Columbia Federal Courthouse.
I have asked FBA treasurer, Maria Vathis, to assist me in leading this civics effort on a nationwide basis. Maria is a dedicated FBA member and volunteer, a natural leader, and has already spent many months working with me to get these civics programs up and running. I know she will do a wonderful job, and I thank her in advance for her commitment to the FBA. Questions concerning this civics effort can be directed to Maria at email@example.com or to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. An article by Maria, explaining the need for civics education in our country and giving the background of the FBA’s two essay contests for middle and high school students, follows in these pages.
This issue also contains an article by Kate Strickland, executive director of the Ohio Center for Law-Related Education (OCLRE). OCLRE runs the middle and high school mock trial programs in Ohio—an important civics effort—which many FBA members participate in.
Given that I care strongly about civics, and I am honored that the FBA and AO are working together on this important program, I will make every effort when I visit chapters around the country this year to not only meet with local federal judges, but also to schedule a local school visit so that I can meet with middle and high school students myself, explain what it means to be a judge, and talk one-on-one with students about civics and the federal courts.
SOLACE is an acronym for “Support of Lawyers/Legal Personnel—All Concern Encouraged.” The SOLACE program, started in New Orleans by United States District Judge Jay Zainey, has proven incredibly successful as an effort to help those in the legal community with dire medical and other needs.
Some FBA chapters, and other bar associations, have successfully replicated the SOLACE effort in various parts of the United States.
Judge Zainey approached the FBA in the last several years to ask if we would consider working with him to take the SOLACE program nationally. The FBA has agreed, and I have appointed Steve Justice—incoming chapter president of the Dayton, Ohio, chapter—to lead this effort. Steve is bright, capable, and a true leader. Like Maria Vathis, Steve has spent the last six months getting ready, figuring out the mechanics of how SOLACE will work nationally, and forming a task force of Circuit Vice Presidents and others to assist him. If you have an interest in working with Steve or have questions regarding SOLACE, I encourage you to contact him at email@example.com. I likewise take this opportunity to thank Steve, in advance, for all of his hard work on the FBA’s behalf. Under Steve’s leadership, SOLACE will be successful nationally.
Seventh Circuit Vice President Sheri Mecklenburg formed a committee last year, the Community Service Committee of the Circuit Vice Presidents, to review and summarize all of the community service and civics efforts currently being undertaken by FBA chapters, sections, and divisions. Sheri’s committee then produced a report—entitled, “Community Outreach Report”—which can be found on the FBA’s website.[i] I encourage you to take a moment to review this detailed and very thorough report, and I thank Sheri and her committee for their great work in undertaking this effort.
As a result of Sheri’s report, this past April the FBA undertook what it is calling a “National Community Outreach Project,” whereby chapters, sections, and divisions are encouraged to perform specific acts of community service or civics engagement. To encourage them to do so without incurring a financial burden, the FBA Foundation agreed to finance the first 16 of these efforts around the country. All 16 were quite successful.
I’m very proud of these 16 initial efforts, and I hope that during my presidential term we double this number and have 32 or more similar efforts in April 2017. To encourage the growth of this effort, and to make this effort more widely known, I have chosen this year to make the focus of my remaining President’s Pages a discussion of these community service projects. Accordingly, in the President’s Pages going forward, I’ll highlight one or more chapters that successfully undertook a civics or community service project this past April or in the months thereafter.
One significant aspect of community service is serving in a pro bono capacity. I frequently undertook pro bono representation when I was a partner my former firm, Dinsmore & Shohl. I encourage all those in the FBA, who have the capacity to do so, to consider taking on such a role. I assure you—it is rewarding. Likewise, I encourage all FBA members to assist courts with access-to-justice efforts.
Community service also encompasses mentoring, and I would be remiss if I did not mention those that have mentored me in the FBA—particularly in my early years of involvement in the association. I started my involvement in the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky chapter (back when it was only the “Cincinnati” chapter), and I remain grateful to former national president Tom Schuck, Judges Jack Sherman Jr. and Nathaniel R. Jones (for whom I clerked), and Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals Circuit Executive Jim Higgins, all of whom were kind to me and took me under their wing after I expressed an interest in the FBA. My personal hope is that all who read this will take a moment to think about a younger attorney they know—who may or may not be involved in the FBA—and consider mentoring him or her with the knowledge that the future of our legal profession depends on this level of dedication to those who will follow us. I now live in Dayton, Ohio, and the district judges who serve on the bench with me—Judges Thomas Rose and Walter Rice—both mentor frequently and have both joined the board of the Dayton chapter. I encourage my fellow federal judges, and all attorneys in the FBA, to follow these examples.
This will be an exciting year, and I thank you for the opportunity to serve.
Hon. Michael Newman is FBA president and the first U.S. Magistrate Judge to hold this role. Judge Newman can be reached at Michael_Newman@ohsd.uscourts.gov.