Plethora of Panels and Perspectives at Women Judges' Conference


Students and faculty members from Miami Law were deeply involved in the National Association of Women Judges' 34th Annual Conference on Miami Beach.

Scott Rogers, Director of the Mindfulness and Law Program, was part of a panel discussion titled "Mindfulness and Stress Reduction," in which he was joined by Amishi P. Jha, an Associate Professor in UM's Department of Psychology. Mindfulness practices have become a topic of growing interest in the legal field.

"We had a wonderful session," Rogers said, noting the dozens of judges from around the country who shared their thoughts and insights on mindfulness.

"Paying attention to what is taking place in the present moment can be challenging in the practice of law and when sitting on the bench, when there are so many important decisions to be made moment by moment. When people get stressful and agitated while there are big issues in front of us, mindfulness practice can be helpful."

On another topic, a very capable team of professors from Miami Law presented their impressions on the state of legal access by the disenfranchised. The panel, titled "Curbing Access to Justice in a Down Economy," prompted a lively discussion moderated by Professors Donna Coker and Jennifer Hill; JoNel Newman, Associate Professor of Clinical Legal Education; and William P. Quigley, a Law Professor from Loyola University. They stressed the importance of a pro-bono experience in law school because such experience often extends into the future attorney's professional life.

"People presented not just aspects of the problem – the problem being very well known by this audience of judges – but also made suggestions about improvements," said Professor Coker. "For example, improvements in changing the rules on unauthorized practice of law to allow non-lawyers to do limited representation and assistance, the use of law students and leveraging law student energy and intelligence to better represent clients, and the importance of making a change in law and change in practice to enable collective organizing efforts that are frequently the primary means – and sometimes the most important means – to gain access to justice, not just for one individual but for an entire group."

"It was a great privilege to be on this panel for the National Association of Women Judges on access to justice," Professor Newman said. "I was very impressed and very pleased with the level of engagement that all of the women judges in the room had about the crisis in representation for poor and vulnerable populations, and the fact that there are not enough legal services for those individuals. We are thinking and brainstorming on creative ways to change that."

Professor Hill said the lack of access to justice "is so great that it will take a massive infusion of resources and creative change in roles to address individual need as well as the institution of some new strategies to try to address the collective problems."

In a session titled "Power and Reach of the Internet," Jon M. Sands, Federal Public Defender for the District of Arizona, joined Professors A. Michael Froomkin and Mary Anne Franks on the panel, which was moderated by Judge M. Margaret McKeown of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. "It was a really fascinating discussion about the challenges that the internet poses for judges and for citizens when it comes to privacy, when it comes to respect, and when it comes to equality," said Professor Franks. "My particular focus and contribution to the discussion was the question of discrimination and unequal burdens and benefits for those of us who are participating in internet communities."

The panel explored the centrality of the cyber world to our lives and how it poses special problems for justice, equality, and privacy. Judicial ethics and staff management issues were also addressed in terms of their relation to the use of social media, civil liberties, and sentencing issues for those charged with internet-based crimes, as well as First Amendment and privacy concerns in the context of internet regulation.

"We were talking about internet freedom and internet crimes, how free speech should be online, whether the fact that sometimes abused free speech means that we will have additional torts or crimes," said Professor Froomkin. "I think everyone here would agree it was a very spirited discussion."

Conference attendees were treated to a "Noche de Salsa," sponsored by Miami Law, at the home of Judge Rosemary Barkett of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. Guests were welcomed with traditional Latin mojitos and an authentic paella cookout, and danced to a salsa band with professional salsa dancers. As parting gifts, judges took home fans and tropical fruits, such as coconuts and avocados, that had been used as centerpieces.

To watch the panel discussions, click below:

  • Professor Donna Coker
  • Professor Jennifer Hill
  • Associate Professor of Clinical Education JoNel Newman
  • Lecturer in Law Scott Rogers
  • Professor A. Michael Froomkin
  • Professor Mary Anne Franks