As I mentioned in my welcome post last week, I’ll be providing you an update early each week on some of the key highlights and happenings encompassed in my role as WSBA President. Last week provided me a much-welcomed reprieve, having come off a week that had me at more than 12 meetings/engagements in a matter of five days while still juggling my regular workload.
It wasn’t until Thursday that I had my first function. I attended Asian Bar Association of Washington’s Annual Gala celebrating its 25th anniversary, where two highlights stood out for me. First was Sharon Sakamoto’s story about the founding of ABAW 25 years ago as a support group for Asian attorneys and its evolution into a multi-faceted organization that champions civil rights and provides pro bono legal assistance as well as friendship and support for Asian attorneys. We sometimes forget how far we have come in those 25 years. The second was Janet Lin’s moving reminder that marriage is a civil right and a central event in most of our lives and that we have an opportunity in this election to make sure that nobody is denied the right to marry.
Earlier in the evening, I stopped by a reception for Justice At Stake, a national advocacy group that works to ensure a fair and impartial judiciary. John McKay and Judge Eileen Kato serve on the organization’s board of directors, and Bill Gates Sr. has been instrumental in funding the group through Gates Foundation grants. In recognition of his help, the board presented Bill with a copy of Gideon’s Trumpet personally inscribed by Anthony Lewis. Bill looked genuinely moved, proving the old saying, “It’s the thought that counts.”
Friday morning I attended the meeting of the Board of Judicial Administration, the umbrella group for the judicial branch to discuss problems and policy. There was a presentation by the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative, which operates in 40 states and over 200 jurisdictions to provide alternatives to detention and thereby decrease the disparate impact of the system on minority youth. It was interesting to learn that many counties in Washington, including all of the larger ones, have some sort of ongoing project in this area. I also learned that the Washington State Center for Court Research is about to release statistics on disproportionate minority contact in the state’s juvenile courts.
Also on the agenda was the legislative program. BJA is considering sponsorship of bills 1) to extend the sunset for the filing fee surcharges, which would otherwise expire next July 1, 2) to mandate court-paid interpreters in all civil cases, and 3) to create additional Superior Court Judges for Whatcom County and Benton-Franklin County courts.
All in all, an interesting last week.