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Spring 2019

As this newsletter was being prepared, the Courts and Community Committee was wrapping up its sixth Ninth Circuit Civics Contest. We are expecting more than 1,000 high school students from across the western states to participate in this year’s essay and video contest. The top three finishers in each competition will be announced in June, and we are hopeful of having the first-place winners join us in July at the 2019 Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference in Spokane, Washington.

The civics contest is a major civics education undertaking in the Ninth Circuit. Begun in 2014, it was originally conceived of as an event limited to students living in the judicial district hosting that year’s circuit conference. Since becoming a circuit-wide competition in 2016, thousands of young people have participated in the contest, learning about the Constitution and the judicial branch. It has been a great success thanks to the work of many judges, lawyers, court staff and educators. We are also grateful for financial support from all the districts of the circuit, which contribute from their nonappropriated funds.

We have been fortunate to have had great staff support over the years from the Office of the Circuit Executive: Alex Clausen, audio/ video specialist; Chandan Toor, web developer; David Madden, assistant circuit executive; and Katherine Rodriguez, communications assistant. David’s group also includes Dr. Kari Kelso, the administrator of The Justice Anthony M. Kennedy Library and Learning Center in Sacramento, who also contributes to the contest. This group is collectively responsible for the great contest website we have every year,, along with all the graphical and narrative content for various flyers, posters and other handouts. They are also the ones who facilitate the local judging by gathering and distributing the hundreds of essays and scores of videos received. It’s a great team effort that goes on behind the scenes.

We tried a few new things to promote the contest this year. One of those was a video featuring one of our committee members, District Judge John Kronstadt of Los Angeles and Veronica Yu of Arcadia, California, a member of the student team from Arcadia High School team that won the video contest in 2018.

Alex Clausen shot the video in Judge Kronstadt’s chambers and courtroom in the Central District of California’s new 1st Street Courthouse. It’s a great video, which you can access from the contest website. We plan to do more videos in the future.

The Courts and Community Committee has begun brainstorming for our 2020 contest theme. We will be focusing on voting rights in recognition of the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote. We hope to benefit from the work being done now on the 2019 Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference program, which includes a segment on the history of the 19th Amendment ratification in the western states. We think it’s a great topic and welcome your suggestions about how to frame the contest prompt.

We are also planning for a civics education reception during the circuit conference in July. We are hopeful of having not only Justice Anthony Kennedy back with us but also Justice Elena Kagan, our new Ninth Circuit justice. And this year, we will be opening the reception to all conferees, so please plan on dropping by. Last, but not least, we are again planning a civics coordinator conference sometime this fall. This is Dr. Kelso’s project and involves a 2 ½-day program for judges and court staff who are or want to become involved in civics education and community outreach at the district level. The conference was to have been held in February at the Kennedy Learning Center but was postponed due to the extended partial government shutdown.

There has never been a better time to get involved in civics education and community outreach. If you have the time and inclination to get involved, I am sure you will find the endeavor extremely worthwhile. Thanks for reading and see you at the circuit conference!

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