October 2023 President's Letter

Written by National Association of Women Judges|October 02, 2023|Monthly Update Archive

toni-clarke-updated.pngIt's hard to believe that it's been a year since I began my year as President of NAWJ. My theme for the year was Back to the Future: Recognizing our Legacy and Reimagining Our Future. It was my expectation that we would evaluate and identify NAWJ successes and reimagining how we move forward, focusing on governance, sustainability, transparency, and visibility through collaboration with outside entities.

We hit the ground running. Committees were in place by the end of November. In November, we produced our first Heritage Month Program for Native American Heritage Month. In collaboration between NAWJ District Four and the Women's Bar Association of the District of Columbia, we held a Bar-to-Bench Program at American University law school.  I had the pleasure of representing NAWJ on a panel for the Academy of Court Appointed Neutrals (ACAN) at its annual conference. Also, it was my distinct pleasure to attend the Investiture of the Honorable J. Michelle Childs to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

During the year, our Committees and Districts were hard at work producing a variety of webinars and programs, too many to list here, covering a variety of subjects and topics designed to educate and assist our members to handle issues they may encounter on and off the bench. They have conducted MentorJet, Color of Justice, Bar-to-Bench and Women in Prison Programs, to name a few, across the Country, educating the public on what we do as judges. I thank the Committees and Districts for all of their hard work during my year as President.

As you know, an Ad Hoc Committee was established to consider and make recommendations addressing the issues created as a result of our travel ban Resolution of 2021. After many hours of careful, thoughtful and compassionate consideration of the issues, the committee made several recommendations for moving forward and submitted a proposed Resolution to be considered and voted on at our business meeting. I thank them for their consideration of the issues and recommendations for addressing them.

During the year NAWJ has collaborated with many other organizations such as the Federal Judiciary Council of the Federal Bar Association, the Commission on Women and the Profession of the American Bar Association, the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, the National Judicial College, Our Children's Trust, and Lawyers for Civil Justice, to name a few, on programs and webinars. For Women’s History Month, NAWJ was highlighted in a Spectrum Cable production on The History of Women in the Judiciary, for which I was interviewed.

In January, in cooperation with the ABA’s International Law Section and other international coalitions, NAWJ produced a webinar for the International Day of the Endangered Lawyer, which this year through the efforts of our members who are active in these other entities, included judges. This focus Country was Afghanistan. This program brought attention to the plight of the women judges of Afghanistan as the Taliban gained control, their harrowing experience getting out of the country, and the efforts made by NAWJ, IAWJ and other IAWJ member Countries to relocate them in the United States and other countries. This program was well received with over 100 in attendance from around the world.

We continue to support our sister judges from Afghanistan who have settled in the United States. The NAWJ New York Chapter, District 2, and California members of District 14 have all established a variety of programs. These programs help support and provide opportunities for Afghan refugees with experience or an interest in the legal profession. I thank you and other members around the country, for your support of our efforts on behalf of the Afghan women judges.

One of the highlights of my year was hosting NAWJ for my Midyear meeting in Annapolis, Maryland, the Capital of my home State. The primary focus was governance and leadership, providing those in attendance the opportunity to explore and discuss NAWJ governance and sustainability issues. We engaged in a great exchange of ideas through the use of a facilitator, from which a report was generated. This report will assist us as we move forward with refreshing our strategic plan. We hosted about 30 law students for our Planting the Seed Program. I was particularly honored and proud that Maryland's Governor the Honorable Wes Moore was able to join us at our welcome reception at the Naval Academy. 

Another highlight of my year was attending the IAWJ Biennial Conference in Marrakesh Morocco. We kicked off the conference with a reception hosted by United States Ambassador to Morocco for the Judges of the United States and Morocco. It was a wonderful opportunity to learn from the judges of Morocco about their appointment and selection process. The opening session was an experience to behold. It was akin to walking into the United Nations with everyone waving their country flags and wearing their country colors. The educational sessions and social events at the conference were phenomenal. In April 2025 the Biennial Conference will be in Cape Town South Africa. I highly recommend you consider attending that event.

Though I am ending my year as President there are still initiatives that are a continued work in progress. Work continues on creating a library of toolkits and brochures of our programs and projects for easy access to members to use when educating the community. We have created a task force to update the website, with the expectation that it will be more user friendly. We will be creating a task force to refresh our strategic plan which, pursuant to the current strategic plan, has to be updated in 2024. As a result of member input, we have initiated quarterly meetings with new members of NAWJ, providing an opportunity for them to meet and greet leadership and for leadership to have an opportunity to meet and welcome our new members.

In September I was on several panels for Relativity Fest sponsored by Relativity, an organization with which one of our Resource Board members is affiliated. Our Resource Board has been tremendously supportive in many ways. I thank the Board members for their continued support of NAWJ.

In October I will attend the National Judicial College’s Judicial Academy and 60th Anniversary celebration, at which I will have an opportunity to address those in attendance. Yet another opportunity to promote NAWJ as a result of our collaborations with other entities.

You will be reading this report as we begin the 2023 Annual Conference in Indianapolis. I thank Judge Heather Welch and her Conference Committee for all of the time and effort that they have provided to make this conference such a success. We have been meeting monthly for the past year and Judge Welch and her team have worked tirelessly to provide excellent educational programming and space for socializing with our colleagues.

As I said when I started my year as president “it takes a village” and the members of the Executive Committee, the Board of Directors and you the NAWJ members have been my village. I could not have done this without your support. I thank you for your vote of confidence. I hope I did not disappoint you. I also want to thank our amazing staff, Executive Director Laurie Denham, Development Director Francie Teer, Janelle Mihoc, and Brian Gorg for their unwavering support during this year.

It has been my distinct honor and privilege to serve as your President. I will continue to work for this great organization and pledge my support for President Sage during her year. I wish Judge Sage much success during her year as President. Again, thank you for the opportunity to serve.

Respectfully submitted,
Judge Toni E. Clarke (Ret)
President, NAWJ

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