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VOL. 35 | NO. 38 | Friday, September 23, 2011




Traffic court committee takes exit

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In August, the American Bar Association had its annual meeting in Toronto with 7,000 lawyers, judges and other legal professionals attended the meeting. I was not among them.

Agenda items included judicial election reform and legal education. The ABA also considered various issues involved with judicial recusals, law student debt and job placement.

Evidence shows that law school graduates face a bleak job market. And that some are toting as much as $100,000 in student loans that need to be repaid.

The ABA’s House of Delegates adopted two education-related resolutions. One urges law schools to accurately record and report data reflecting their alumni’s placement in “law-related jobs.” In years past, there has been no requirement to distinguish between jobs taken in or out of the legal field.

The other resolution urges Congress “to help law graduates with excessive debt levels.” Existing law reduces repayment requirements for law graduates who go into public service or legal aid. The resolution asks for an extension of those provisions.

Somewhere there was a measure that merited no media mention. I received a note from an ABA staff person telling me that the Judicial Division’s Traffic Court Committee, on which I have served for several years, “ceased to exist … as of last week at the annual meeting.” She also noted that my appointment to said committee was set to expire on August 31, a couple of weeks after the notice.

The news was not altogether unexpected. The one and only function of this committee was to administer an annual seminar. Each year we held it in a different city. Little Rock had the honor last year, and before that it was held in Providence, New Orleans, Seattle and Charleston.

The entire time I was on this committee, there was a struggle to structure and promote the seminar so that the revenue generated from attendance would exceed the cost of putting it on. I could go on and on about our meetings and how we wrestled with this ongoing issue. It would put you to sleep (not that this column is not doing that anyway).

Suffice it to say that the “business” of putting on continuing professional education seminars for judges has grown more than a little competitive. Other entities were competing for the best presenters, the hot topics, the most popular venues, etc. Thus, it was not a total shock to read that our committee had been “absorbed by the Special Court Judges Traffic Court Committee,” an entity that looks a lot like we once looked.

I will be hearing from the chair of that committee, I was told. But I did not worry about that right away. My immediate focus was to enjoy the last two weeks of my tenure on the committee that no longer existed. As well as to ponder what I might have been doing at the moment it ceased to exist.

It was a peaceful fortnight.

Vic Fleming is a district court judge in Little Rock, Ark., where he also teaches at the William H. Bowen School of Law. Contact him at vicfleming@att.net.

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