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Judges Give Insights from the Bench

By Kelley Arnold, Associate Director of Membership Outreach
Judges play a key role in shaping the law of our states and territories. On Friday, Nov. 13 at 11 a.m., The Council of State Governments will host a plenary session panel discussion at its Annual Conference in La Quinta, Calif., entitled “Justice Matters: Insights from the Bench.” The panel includes four state chief justices who will explore the idea of fair and impartial state courts. Judicial elections, interbranch cooperation, court innovations and equality in justice will be among the topics on the docket.
Bill Vickrey, administrative director, California Administrative Office of the Courts, will moderate the session. The panelists are chief justices Shirley S. Abrahamson of Wisconsin, Sue Bell Cobb of Alabama, Paul J. De Muniz of Oregon and John D. Minton Jr. of Kentucky.
Abrahamson  has served as chief justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court since 1996. She was the first woman to serve on the court when she was first appointed in 1976. Abrahamson, who graduated from the Indiana University Law School, also served as a professor at the University of Wisconsin Law School. She is a past president of the National Conference of Chief Justices and past chair of the board of directors of the National Center for State Courts. She also served as chair of the National Institute of Justice's National Commission on the Future of DNA Evidence.
Cobb took office as chief justice of the Supreme Court of Alabama in 2007 after serving 12 years on the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals. Cobb graduated from the University of Alabama School of Law in 1981. As soon as she was admitted to the bar, she was appointed district judge of Conecuh County, becoming one of the state’s youngest judges. She was elected twice to that position. She was appointed to serve as an alternate chief judge on the Court of the Judiciary in 1997, and was elected to the Court of Appeals in 1994.
De Muniz joined the Oregon Supreme Court in January 2001 and became Oregon’s 41st chief justice on Jan. 1, 2006. In 2008, he was elected to the board of directors of the Conference of Chief Justices, and is one of eight state chief justices selected to attend a three-year Harvard University Executive Session to study the role of state court leaders. De Muniz, who graduated from the Willamette University College of Law, has also served on the Judicial Fitness and Disability Commission and the Supreme Court Access to Justice for All Committee. In 2002, he founded a now flourishing rule-of-law partnership with judicial leaders in Russia’s Far East.
Minton was sworn in as Kentucky’s fifth chief justice June 27, 2008, after serving two years as a justice on the state Supreme Court. Minton, who graduated from the University of Kentucky College of Law in 1977, was appointed to the court in July 2006 and was then elected to an eight-year term in November 2006 to represent the Second Supreme Court District, which is comprised of 14 counties in western Kentucky. He had previously served on the Kentucky Court of Appeals, and before that served as a circuit court judge in Warren County, Ky., where he served as chief regional judge of the Green River Region.
Don’t miss this insiders’ look behind the gavel. For more information on this and other sessions, visit the CSG Web site and click on meetings. Also, check out the October State News for an interview with Alabama Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb about fair and impartial state courts.

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