July 2024 President's Letter

Written by National Association of Women Judges|July 08, 2024|Monthly Update Archive

Dear Members—
Recently, I traveled to Dallas to attend the annual Conference on Crimes Against Women. The weeklong conference’s 2,600 attendees included prosecutors, law enforcement, social workers, victim advocates, Tribal leaders, sexual assault nurse examiners, medical professionals, therapists, and survivors themselves from all 50 States and beyond.  Judges are invited, but very few attended. During a pre-conference session on strangulation, hundreds of participants were asked, “Other than your own, what is your least favorite profession to work with on domestic violence cases?” Their answers produced the following thought cloud: 


At one point during the live poll, “judges” was in the middle of the cloud in the largest font. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been shocked at how many of the professionals we work with daily consider us the biggest part of the problem. Yet I was a bit shocked and more than a little dismayed. I am quite confident that our members are more informed than many on the bench, but I am just as sure that we can do better. This is precisely why at the beginning of my term we sought and were awarded the $30,000 grant from State Justice Institute. We used these funds to sponsor the domestic violence training at the midyear conference and we are using them to sponsor more education on these issues at the annual conference this year. Besides educating ourselves, we must use our influence to ensure our colleagues on the bench are well-trained on the dynamics of domestic and intimate partner violence by encouraging training within our own jurisdictions.

On a more personal note, last month, I attended two memorial services, involving our sisters in law who have done amazing work for the International Association of Women Judges. In Bethesda on June 23, I attended a memorial service for Arline Pacht, who passed away in April. As many of you know, in 1991, NAWJ invited fifty judges from around the world to celebrate our 10th Annual Conference. As a result of that meeting, Judge Pacht committed herself to creating an international association for women judges, and in 1992, she became IAWJ’s first president.

On the same day, I attended a service in Falls Church, Virginia, for David Birenbaum, the dear husband of Judge Vanessa Ruiz. Judge Ruiz has served as president of both NAWJ and IAWJ and organized the latter’s efforts to evacuate women judges from Afghanistan and resettle them safely. Our hearts go out to Vanessa and her family in this time of loss.

Finally, I have been meeting regularly with our co-chairs for the 45th NAWJ Annual Conference in San Diego, California, Judges Terrie Roberts and Pennie MacLaughlin. They and their committees have been hard at work creating an incredible conference for our members. As if the location of San Diego, California weren’t enough reason to attend, the outstanding programs they have put together are definitely worth the trip. Early bird registration is now open, so sign up today and I will see you there!

Karen R. Sage
President, National Association of Women Judges 

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