I had the opportunity to attend the District of Maine Judicial Conference earlier this week, and it did not disappoint. It was the first one held in four years given the pandemic, and it was great to hear from practitioners and judges in person. My partner Nolan Reichl, along with Valerie Wicks, moderated a great panel on Rule 26(f) issues. Of particular note for this blog, however, attendees also had the opportunity to hear from the Chief Judge of the First Circuit, Judge Barron.
Judge Barron provided an enlightening “State of the Circuit” update at the Conference. Judge Barron noted the transitions on the First Circuit bench, with the appointments in the last year of Judge Montecalvo for the open seat from Rhode Island and Judge Gelpí from Puerto Rico. More changes are yet to come, with a vacancy for Judge Howard’s seat from New Hampshire, and a pending nominee (Julie Rikelman) for Judge Lynch’s seat from Massachusetts. This is certainly a remarkable number of changes, in just a few years, for the First Circuit.
Judge Barron also discussed some of the initiatives currently underway within the First Circuit. He highlighted the work of various subcommittees of the Circuit Council, including work on access to justice issues, post-pandemic operations, model jury instructions, alternative sentencing, and civics education. From this attorney’s perspective, it is good to hear that the First Circuit is continually looking to help pro se litigants either represent themselves effectively or find lawyers to represent them. It was also encouraging to hear that the First Circuit is thinking about the lessons learned from the pandemic, including how simple steps such as making oral argument audio available online increases public access to the justice system. And Judge Barron’s call for both judges and attorneys to be thinking about how best to promote the public’s education regarding the justice system was a welcome challenge.
As always, it is beneficial to hear updates from the Court and understand better the Court’s perspective.