During the coming year, the FBA focuses on “Civics and Service to Others.” An important component of such service is mentoring. I was fortunate to have mentors while in law school, as a law clerk to a federal judge, and while in private practice—including, among many others, Hon. Jack Sherman Jr., Hon. Nathaniel R. Jones, Bill Williams, Cliff Kuhn, Dean Barbara Watts, Charlie Faruki, Mike Hawkins, Mark VanderLaan, and George Vincent. I am grateful to the lawyers who met with me, took me to lunch, discussed their practice, and gave me advice. I am also grateful to the two judges I clerked for, Judge Sherman and Judge Jones, both of whom were quite generous with their time and who explained the inner workings of the court to me. Collectively, these mentors made me who I am today and impressed upon me the importance of mentoring those who follow.
While clerking, teaching as an adjunct professor, in private practice, and now as a federal judge, I took every opportunity I could to mentor. I see this as an obligation—a duty, if you will—to explain to law students and college students what we do and why it is so crucial to the process of decision-making that we are fair, careful, honest, and civil with one another.
I have worked quite hard to mentor students who desire a career in the law. I impress upon high school students the need to further their education, whether they eventually attend law school, and I do my best, as permitted, to open doors for them so they can decide for themselves if a legal career is a good fit. I afford these students—as well as college and law students—opportunities to meet and network with lawyers and judges.
The Ohio Supreme Court, like a few other states, has created a formal mentoring program for new lawyers once they pass the state bar. This program, run by attorney Lori Keating, is quite effective and, given the large number of federal practitioners who volunteer to serve as mentors, was written about in these pages six years ago. Recently, the Dayton, Ohio, FBA chapter—of which I am a member—created a similar mentoring program. The chapter matches the interests of mentors (i.e., experienced attorneys and judges) and mentees (i.e., newly admitted lawyers and law students). This local mentoring effort has likewise proven very successful.
This past summer, I had 10 externs in my chambers—including urban, public high school students enrolled in Ohio’s Law & Leadership Institute (LLI); a minority college student participating in the Summer Work Experience in Law program (SWEL) who is considering attending law school; a law student from Dayton’s Minority Clerkship Program; and law students from across the country (as well as one international student). I met with these students; took them to lunch or for coffee when time permitted; encouraged them to watch hearings and trials both in our federal and in the state court across the street; when counsel agreed, permitted them to sit in on mediations; and talked to them, once court recessed, so they understood what they saw and why I ruled the way I did.
Was this time consuming? Yes, of course. Would my life have been less hectic had I not had this many externs? Again, yes, of course. But I did so because it is so very important for all of us in the federal legal community to motivate those who will follow to attend college and go to law school, to be proud of being a lawyer, to be an ethical counselor and adviser to clients, to see how hard lawyers and judges work every day to “get it right the first time,” and to inspire a passion for justice and due process.
I was touched by the thank-you notes I received from these externs who had comments such as:
- I particularly admire your work ethic, compassion, and sincere interest in helping others—these traits are inspiring.
- Your passion for the law and helping others is contagious. Your willingness to give back and mentor aspiring lawyers is something I hope to do in the future.
- I’ve learned so many things this summer, but the biggest takeaway is to never sell myself short. I’m leaving this experience more confident and sure of myself and my future.
- I find it awe inspiring how much you care about people. I will never forget what I learned here.
I encourage every FBA member this year to take the time to work with and mentor one person who might follow in your footsteps. It may sound trite, but it is not: You will get back far more than you give of your time. I likewise encourage every federal judge to mentor and to participate in the FBA’s national civics initiative.
Community Service: The Middle District of Pennsylvania Chapter
Each month in the President’s Message, we will highlight chapters that have participated in the FBA’s community outreach efforts. These community outreach efforts will occur every April going forward, but we encourage chapters to do similar events throughout the year. This month, we highlight the Middle District of Pennsylvania chapter, which writes:
For its inaugural community outreach project, the Middle District of Pennsylvania Chapter hosted “An Introduction to Federal Courts and Federal Agencies” program at two of the district’s courthouses with students from local schools. The half-day programs emphasized the public nature of our federal buildings and introduced students and teachers to the variety of work that takes place inside the buildings’ walls. This introduction went beyond simply meeting with judges and visiting courtrooms; it included presentations from lawyers, federal agents, probation officers, administrators, and others who perform myriad functions in our system of law and criminal justice. Rather than holding a single event, the chapter elected to hold multiple programs in an effort to connect with students residing in communities that are situated throughout the Middle District of Pennsylvania. The chapter will hold a similar program in Harrisburg later in 2016.
The first program was presented in April 2016 at the William J. Nealon Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse with a group of 12th grade students from Scranton High School who are studying law and civics. The chapter later put on a similar event at the Herman T. Schneebeli Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse, this time with ninth grade students from the Williamsport Area High School enrolled in a “career pathways” class and who had expressed a specific interest in learning about law enforcement and criminal justice work.
During their visit to the William J. Nealon Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse, the Scranton students were welcomed by District Judge Malachy E. Mannion and Magistrate Judge Karoline Mehalchick, who discussed the role of the court and described for the students the kinds of cases that are heard in federal court. Both judges also discussed their backgrounds prior to being appointed to the bench. Assistant U.S. Attorney Bill Houser walked the students through a criminal investigation, using visual aids and examples such as search warrants, wiretaps, and other investigative tools. He further discussed grand jury practice, charging documents, and trial. Houser was joined by Assistant Federal Public Defender Leo Latella who presented the defense case and explained defense strategy both before and after defendants are charged, as well as the important role defense counsel plays during the sentencing process. Next, Mark Campetti, a probation officer specializing in sentencing issues, took the students through a mock presentence report during which the students helped to calculate guideline ranges and possible sentencing recommendations. Sean Quinn, the agent-in-charge of the FBI’s Scranton office, explained the process of applying for and obtaining work in the bureau and other federal law enforcement agencies. The Scranton program closed with a presentation by the court’s jury clerk, Cindy St. Pierre, who discussed the kinds of administrative and paraprofessional careers available within the federal court system, and offered stories and lessons drawn from her nearly three decades with the court.
The chapter’s Williamsport program took place in the courtroom of Magistrate Judge William I. Arbuckle III. Judge Arbuckle spoke to the students about his career as a lawyer in state government and private practice and his eventual appointment as a magistrate judge. The students were invited to observe two arraignments in front of Judge Arbuckle, after which the judge, Assistant U.S. Attorney Geoffrey MacArthur, and defense counsel Kyle Rude explained the nature of the proceedings and the issues involved. Middle District Chapter President E.J. Rymsza and Assistant Federal Public Defender Toni Byrd presented a multimedia overview of federal criminal defense work and the constitutional right to counsel. Kevin Hogan, a probation officer discussed the variety of services performed by probation officers at all states of criminal practice. To offer the students additional information about law enforcement work, two court security officers spoke about their careers as local and state police officers. Lori Fosnaught, a court reporter, described her work for the students and discussed the training necessary to become certified in the field. The program concluded with a presentation by Bill Pugh, a deputy U.S. marshal, who also led a behind-the-scenes tour of the federal building and the marshal’s facilities.
Based on the feedback received from the students, teachers, and presenters, these programs were a resounding success for the chapter, and plans are being made to make these programs annual events with local schools. In addition to the two programs summarized above, the chapter has helped to put on similar programs with younger elementary school students and is looking for further opportunities for community engagement. The chapter expresses its appreciation and gratitude to the judges of the Middle District of Pennsylvania for their support and involvement in the programming and to the presenters who went to considerable effort to develop engaging and educational presentations for the visiting students.
Finally, I am proud to report that our national civics and Solace efforts are well underway.
Our national civics effort, undertaken in conjunction with the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (AO), is up and running and doing quite well. The FBA encourages federal judges to meet with middle and high school students—in their courtrooms and also in schools—to talk to students about the importance of the Third Branch. If judges have more time, we also encourage them to participate with students in one of the “You Be the Judge” scenarios found on the FBA’s website. These civics materials—all designed for judges—were provided to the FBA by the AO and were created in the hope that, if a judge has a half-hour or more, that judge will take advantage of the multiple ways to interact with and teach students about the federal courts. I again thank Director Jim Duff, National Outreach Officer Rebecca Fanning, and all the other AO attorneys and staff members who made this nationwide civics undertaking possible.
If you are a chapter president, please take a moment to review the “Civics” page on the FBA’s website (www.fedbar.org/civics), then meet with your local federal judges to see which civics effort makes the most sense in your particular seat of court. We encourage all judges to participate in this national civics program and also ask chapters to write about your civics successes. Please send your summaries and photos to Stacy King (email@example.com). We plan to highlight these civics initiatives in future pages of The Federal Lawyer, on the FBA’s website, and in the FBA electronic newsletter.
I am also pleased to report that Solace is doing well. Solace is a program by which those in the legal community—whether lawyers, judges, paralegals, legal assistants, or their families—are provided with assistance when they face dire medical or other needs. The following chapters are now participating in Solace: Dallas, Dayton, District of Columbia, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Orlando, Phoenix, San Diego, South Carolina, and Tampa Bay. If you would like to participate, please contact Steve Justice, who is leading this worthwhile and very important national effort.
To all FBA members, thanks for all you do. We are making a difference. It is my honor to serve this year as your president.
Judge Michael Newman
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.