President’s Column: The End of My Freshman Year on the Bench
Article byPosted 2019 - 2020 CABA PresidentDecember 2019
My one-year anniversary of being sworn in as a Chancellor for Mississippi’s Fifth Chancery Court District is quickly approaching — my freshman year on the bench is almost over. Overall, it has been a year of hard work fueled by gratitude. Many attorneys have asked me about my transition from being a member of the bar to becoming a member of the bench. It is no small change to go from trying to make the most persuasive arguments to deciding which arguments should prevail as a matter of law. I want to share some observations from the past 48 weeks on the bench.
The transition from being a lawyer to becoming a judge is demanding and intrinsically humbling. You transition from having personal and professional allegiances to individual clients, to committing yourself to the rule of law. You have to pick up a new case and learn a new business and process. You are constantly bombarded with new information. A good lawyer is expected to know a lot about their practice area; a good judge is expected to know a lot about everything. One of the things I’ve enjoyed the most about being a judge so far is the variety — it is fun to be exposed to so many areas of the law and so many different aspects of society.
Without a doubt, my new job as Chancellor has been more emotionally draining than lawyering ever was. I appreciate the incredible responsibility which comes with applying facts to the law and deciding a case that may intimately impact people’s lives. The reality is that families in Chancery Court are often going through some of their darkest times, like the death of a loved one, a divorce, a family member suffering from addiction or mental illness. There have been several days this year where I literally shut my office door and cried, feeling enormous empathy for the families before me while bearing the hefty weight of being the decider of fact. The positive side is that I feel I am now in a position to help more people and in more meaningful ways. So far, I find the bench to be more personally fulfilling and rewarding than practice.
I have a greater understanding of the importance of keeping up with technology — keep up or get left behind. I was immediately thrust into navigating my way through the Mississippi Electronic Courts (MEC) system. As a lawyer, I barely knew how to log into MEC. Hinds County Chancery fully transitioned to paperless filing the beginning of this year. This means the clerk’s office no longer keeps paper files with a few exceptions, like original wills. The great news for local lawyers is that you will never again have to drive to Raymond to pick up a paper file for a second judicial district case being heard in Jackson. Almost a year in and I am still learning different ways MEC can improve case management and review. I’m excited to see how MEC can be used as a tool to help us guard and protect our most vulnerable citizens as the GAP Act goes into effect January 1st.
In June of this year, I took the reigns as President of CABA. I was a little apprehensive about the time I would have to dedicate to CABA, in addition to learning the ins and outs of my new job. I’ve had to adjust to a job that necessarily requires a certain level of solitude and serving as CABA President has helped me avoid the acute sense of isolation that many new members of the bench fear. I find myself surprisingly thankful that CABA provides me with so many opportunities to still hang around with you lawyers.
If you’re still reading this article, I’d be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to update you on upcoming CABA activities. The CABA committees have been hard at work and here are some of the 2020 dates to put on your calender: the Diversity Committee will present a one (1) hour CLE program at the February 18, 2020 membership meeting; the Bench and Bar Committee will present a one (1) hour CLE lunch program at the April 21, 2020 membership meeting. These membership luncheons are free with your CABA membership. Please make the most of your membership and make plans to join us. The Solo and Small Firm Committee will be co-hosting another hour of practical Word tips in January, for just $12 you can follow along on your computer and receive one (1) hour of CLE. CABA’s Annual Golf and Croquet Tournament benefitting MVLP will be held at the Jackson Country Club on March 23, 2020. The Spring Social will be April 30, 2020 and the Evening Honoring the Judiciary will be May 14, 2020. I promise you we will try to make every one of these meetings and CABA events worthwhile to our members.
Happy Holidays and I hope to see you at a CABA event next year!