This past summer brought a buzz of activity for our committee and our public outreach efforts, from seeing an ever-expanding Civics Contest, which culminated in a well attended reception during our Judicial Conference in Spokane, Washington, this past July, to organizing naturalization ceremonies at major-league ballparks as part of a national federal judiciary initiative.
Our Ninth Circuit Civics Contest was our largest yet, with more than 1,300 essay entries and 130 video entries. With a topic near and dear to any young person’s heart – The Fourth Amendment in the 21st Century: What is an ‘Unreasonable Search and Seizure’ in the Digital Age? – we saw some innovative approaches as described within this newsletter.
The 2020 contest topic promises to garner even greater interest, particularly coming in an election year. With milestone anniversaries approaching for two of the most life-changing constitutional amendments in our nation’s history – the 15th, which abolished slavery, and the 19th, which granted women’s suffrage – we have a subject ready-made for thoughtful reflection.
Although we expect widespread participation, we can’t rest on our laurels. And that’s why we ask for your help in making the 2020 contest an even bigger success than in past years. We ask each district to engage with their schools and teachers to make sure they have the information they need to excite their students about the contest. And we ask judges and lawyers to speak to students at schools and elsewhere, to talk about the importance and impact of these amendments, and to encourage them to try their hand at a contest entry.
Over the next weeks and months, please check our Courts and Community Committee web pages for more information about how you can help expand the reach of this contest, so that more and more students can gain a better understanding of the Constitution and the role that the judiciary plays in upholding it – which, a er all, is our purpose in holding the contest.
Also over the summer we embarked on a new venture in honor of Constitution Day and Citizenship Day, September 17th, participating in naturalization ceremonies at both the San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers ballparks. In the first year of a two-year initiative by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, this effort saw hundreds of applicants across the country take the oath of allegiance before thousands of cheering fans. Our goal is to expand our horizons next year to include additional major-league as well as minor-league ballclubs around our circuit. Read elsewhere in this publication about these ceremonies, including an inspiring article by Bankruptcy Judge Sandra R. Klein of the Central District of California.
Lastly, we said farewell to our longtime Public Information Officer, David Madden, who retired after 19 years with the Office of the Circuit Executive. In his time with us he led a high-functioning and creative Public Information Unit, and oversaw many programs to advance the public’s understanding of the federal courts, including conferences connecting judges with working journalists, the creation and staffing of this very committee, and the inception and expansion of the Civics Contest. His commitment to the cause, and his work with judges and staff throughout the circuit, were greatly appreciated. Succeeding him is Amy Weitz, whom you can read more about in this newsletter. As always, our work would not be possible without the support and guidance of our committee members, and the hard work and expertise of our Public Information Unit staff : Alex Clausen, our audio/visual specialist who designs all of our publications, including this one; Chandan Toor, our web designer; Katherine Rodriguez, our communications administrator; and Kari Kelso, Ph.D., our community outreach administrator who staff s the Justice Anthony M. Kennedy Learning Center in Sacramento, California. They continue to support the work not only of their unit but of the work throughout the OCE. Best wishes for a happy and healthy holiday season. See you next year!