Federal Court Kicks Off Lunch and Learn Program

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Posted December 7, 2016

Shortly after taking over as Clerk of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, Arthur Johnston realized that the job was somewhat isolated, in a literal sense. The tenants of the Jackson Courthouse, which had occupied the same building on the corner of Capitol and West Streets since the mid-1930's, had moved to the new Courthouse on Court Street. In Manhattan, a city of walkers, the five-block difference would be considered almost no move at all. In Jackson, which becomes, at least during the summer, definitely a city of non-walkers, it was as if the Courthouse had moved to a different city. Other than the lawyers and litigants who were required to make appearances in the courthouses, relatively few members of the Bar have been inside the new facility. Arthur began looking for a way to entice lawyers to come those few extra blocks south.

At the same time, United States Magistrate Judge Linda Anderson was appointed, along with Tianna Raby, as Co-Chairwomen of the Bench & Bar Relations Committee of CABA. Judge Anderson and Tianna also began looking for ways to bring lawyers and judges together. In particular, they wanted to help judges get information out to the bar about practice in their courts. With that end in mind, they met in December with Arthur, Amanda Alexander and Mike Malouf, Jr., President and President-Elect of CABA, and Meta Copeland and Kate Margolis, President and Immediate Past Present of the Mississippi Chapter of the Federal Bar, for a planning session to develop a program by which lawyers and federal judges could meet informally over lunch.

"Lunch and Learn" is the brainchild of that session, and the first event was scheduled for February 24, 2015. The plan is to have a Lunch and Learn event every quarter, and different federal judges will meet with a small group of attorneys for an informal lunch provided by the Court, along with a presentation and a question-and-answer session. Because Lunch and Learn will be held in the Courthouse, space constraints limit the attendees to twenty, so CABA and FBA members get the first opportunity to sign up. CLE credit will be available to those who attend. The first Lunch and Learn was announced to CABA and FBA members on January 20, and a link was provided to those organizations through which they could register. The event "sold out" in less than four hours; registrants included ten CABA members, two FBA members, and eight members of both organizations.

Despite (ultimately unfounded) fears of ice and snow, the first Lunch Learn took place as scheduled. Judge Anderson and Magistrate Judge Keith Ball served as discussion leaders for the first session, which included "Do's and Don'ts in Pretrial Proceedings" and "Tips for Successful Settlement Conferences." The Judges made it clear that questions were welcomed throughout their presentations, and there was lively dialogue between the Judges and the attendees. Several of the attendees stayed after the meeting for a tour of the Courthouse, led by Space and Facilities Manager Nelson Creath, who also served as the in-house architect for the construction of the building.

The first Lunch and Learn was a success, and plans are being made for next quarter's meeting, which will be held on May 21 at 11:30 a.m. and will feature U.S. District Judge Henry T. Wingate. As Arthur noted, "These quarterly events will give attorneys an opportunity to interact with our judges in an informal – yet informative – setting and provide insight into court procedure and practice." Judge Anderson added, "As judges, we also welcome the opportunity to interact with the Bar and address their questions and concerns." Lunch and Learn should serve as a venue for this communication, and the Court looks forward to hosting more sessions.