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Public Outreach and Communications – Annual Report 2023

Federal judges and court staff conducted a variety of public outreach and communications efforts to improve public understanding of the Judiciary’s role in American democracy.

This video profile explores the heritage of Judge Susan Oki Mollway, of the District of Hawaii, who is the first Asian American woman to be appointed to the federal bench.

Civics Education

In 2023, federal judges engaged with local students in courtrooms and classrooms to provide interactive experiences in practicing legal skills as life skills and exploring issues they face in their schools and communities. The programs support a Judiciary-wide effort to expand civics education and raise awareness of the role of the courts in daily life.

Candid Conversations, an initiative by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (AO), brought judges and volunteer attorneys into contact with high school students in classrooms and courtrooms, both virtually and in-person, where students could ask questions about legal topics of interest to them. The Civil Discourse and Difficult Decisions program created opportunities for students to take on courtroom roles with the presiding judge and attorneys coaching them through simulated hearings and jury deliberations on teen-relevant scenarios arising from landmark Supreme Court cases. Students practiced civil discourse, advocacy, judging, deliberation, and decision-making skills during the three-hour courtroom activity.

A 12-week after-school program at the learning center in the Thurgood Marshall U.S. Courthouse in Manhattan brought high school students participating in Harlem Educational Activities Fund programs into weekly contact with judges, attorneys, and a range of law enforcement professionals to learn about legal issues and a wide range of careers. The course culminated in a field trip to a law firm. 

For adults, the AO piloted a course with the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at American University that can be used as a template for adult learning in any venue in addition to the institutes’ 120 community college and university campuses across the country. The network of courthouse community learning centers grew in 2023, with the opening of centers in St. Paul, Minnesota, and Indianapolis. Planned centers in Boston and Minneapolis were well underway. 

Roadways to the Bench Event

Participants share their interests in the law with District Judge Nina R. Morrison during a New York City roundtable session.

Participants in the Roadways to the Bench event discuss careers in the law with Judge Nina R. Morrison, of the Eastern District of New York, center.

In April 2023, the Judiciary sponsored an event for lawyers and law students across the country with the goal of expanding the pipeline of candidates for bankruptcy and magistrate judges. About 1,800 attorneys and law students spoke with federal judges at the symposium about the many paths to becoming a bankruptcy or magistrate judge.

Titled Roadways to the Bench: Who Me? A Bankruptcy or Magistrate Judge?, the event included a panel discussion moderated by Fifth Circuit Judge Carl E. Stewart, which was simultaneously broadcast in 38 cities. The discussion covered topics such as the magistrate judge and bankruptcy judge application processes and pointers for succeeding as a judge. Following the panel discussion, in-person roundtable discussions were held at each location, during which judges shared information on their paths to the bench and careers in the law. Nearly 600 federal judges participated in the discussions.

The Committees on the Administration of the Bankruptcy System and on the Administration of the Magistrate Judges System organized the symposium. Bankruptcy Judge Laurel M. Isicoff, of the Southern District of Florida, and Magistrate Judge Omar J. Aboulhosn, of the Southern District of West Virginia, served as national co-chairs and coordinated planning for the event. At least one bankruptcy judge and one magistrate judge in each host city served as local co-chairs, overseeing outreach to bar associations, law schools, and other organizations.

Highlighting the Stories of Judges

The AO produced several video and narrative projects in 2023 showcasing the stories of judges and court leaders from diverse racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, and sexual-orientation backgrounds. Some of them offered easy-to-understand explanations of aspects of the American court system, in support of Judiciary-wide community outreach efforts. The work included stories about:

Website Upgrade Aimed at Improving Public’s Experience

The AO launched a new Central Violations Bureau website in May 2023 to assist the public with paying fines for tickets received on federal property. The new site is more user-friendly and employs the latest technology to improve usability across devices, including smart phones. It includes features that make it easier for users to navigate the online payment process, find details about their ticket, and understand the conditions of a violation notice. The update also supports accessibility tools that aid those with visual and hearing impairments. In addition, site security features were upgraded.