April 2024 President's Letter

Written by National Association of Women Judges|April 11, 2024|Monthly Update Archive

karen-sage.pngIt has been an incredible year so far and I have truly enjoyed serving as your president.  I am especially grateful to Laurie Denham and our amazing staff for their dedication and hard work in keeping us up and running.  In addition to the many day to day responsibilities involved in our organization, the following is a sampling of some of the more significant events in my first six months in office. 
After taking office in October, I went to work appointing chairs and co-chairs to our 27 active committees covering every aspect of our mission, from complex issues such as immigration and domestic violence to year-to-year tasks like bylaw amendments and conference site selection.
In early November, our Administrative Judiciary Committee presented “Pathways to the Administrative Judiciary: Many Roads, Many Destinations.” State and federal administrative Judges Francine Applewhite, Emily Chafa, Susan Formaker, Henry Hamilton, and Angela Robinson shared their own paths to the bench and provided great insight for lawyers seeking to make that professional move. In mid-November, our Ensuring Racial Equity in the Justice System Committee hosted “Children are Different: The Juvenile Brain and the Justice System,” featuring the Juvenile Law Center’s Marsha Levick and Yale University’s Dr. BJ Casey. They led a fascinating discussion of neuroscience, its evolution, and its role in juvenile sentencing in pivotal cases across the country.
In December I had the honor of attending the memorial service of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor at the National Cathedral in Washington with NAWJ past president and current president of the Conference of Chief Justices (CCJ) and chair of the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) Board of Directors Anna Blackburne-Rigsby.  It was truly memorable to be present while we paid our last respects to an “American pioneer,” as Joe Biden called her.  President Biden spoke of his memories serving on the Senate Judiciary Committee during her confirmation.  He remembered her as “gracious and wise, civil and principled.” 
In January I attended the New York Bar Association annual meeting in New York City.  It was an opportunity to connect with our New York members and talk with them about the changes that are happening with our New York Chapter.  I am certain that our membership in New York and the rest of District Two will flourish under the leadership of our District Director Bianka Perez and our committed members.  I am grateful to our New York Executive Committee members for their leadership.
The co-chairs of our Diversity an Inclusion Committee hosted the webinar, “Why we need a Diversity and Inclusion Plan.”  Judge Francine Applewhite moderated the zoom for members of NAWJ to discuss our own D&I Plan and its importance in our organization.
In late January, Col. Kristin Brunson and Judge Victoria Polkowski along with our LGBTQ+ committee hosted the webinar “The Lingering Legacy of Uncertainty: LGBTQ+ Members Serving in the Armed Forces and Healthcare Post-Service.”
In early February 2024, our Juvenile Justice and Child Welfare Committee and its co-chairs, the Hon. Ernestine Gray and the Hon. Joy Lebrano, presented “Girls in the System: A Journey Through the Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice Systems.” Also, in February I attended the ABA Midyear Meeting.  It was a great chance to connect with our members that are also active in the ABA, so many of whom are in great leadership roles in that organization as well.
When I took office, I announced a new initiative for my presidential year: “Safe at Home.” This initiative encompassed two of my priorities for the coming year.
The first is to address intimate partner violence and family violence. These crimes are among the biggest issues holding women back, because if women and children aren’t safe at home, where are they safe? To that end we qualified for a $30,000 grant from the State Justice Institute.  Through this grant we are working with a training expert to create a curriculum that brings our judiciary the most current content in our training program. The goal or this program I to increase awareness and insight into the complexities involved in cases involving domestic violence, whether they be criminal, civil, family, or specialty court. All parts of the justice system must work together from the same base understanding of the issues related to DV. Our training program will be used for live training of judges and other court staff as well as online training delivered through our Learning Management System (LMS).   The first of these programs will be presented at our midyear meeting. 
The second priority of “Safe at Home” is judicial security. Recent events have tragically reminded us that we need to focus on judicial security.  At the midyear meeting we will have two sessions on judicial security focusing on how to protect ourselves from physical threats. Judge Julie Kocurek will tell the story of the terrible attack she suffered in the driveway of her home on November 6, 2015.  Her story was featured on CBS’s 48 Hours in a segment entitled “Live to Tell:  The Vendetta.”  In 2017 the Texas Legislature passed the Judge Julie Kocurek Judicial and Courthouse Security Act to bolster protection of Texas judges.  She will share with members the experience as well as the knowledge she has gained since the attack.  She provides a unique insight and critical information to help keep us all safe.  Following her presentation, we will hear from John Muffler, United States Marshall Service Chief Inspector (Ret.). Mr. Muffler is a national expert on threat assessment, personal security, and the specific challenges of judicial security.
As part of my “Safe at Home” initiative, in March I announced the formation of a new Judicial Security Committee.  The committee will be co-chaired by Tamarin Lindenberg and Judge Rosemarie Aquilina. 
Also, in March we unveiled our “45 for 45” fundraising effort celebrating our 45 years as an organization and reaching out to our board, our members and others to support us as we look forward to our future. 
Finally, throughout the past few months I have been working closely with our website task force.  It is my hope that by the end of my term we will have a beautiful new website that will better serve the needs of our members.
Hon. Karen R. Sage
President, National Association of Women Judges 

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