Every so often, we are shown that “everything old is new again.” After digging into the origin of this phrase, it has been cited as a quote of Churchill, Mark Twain, and others; and some have simply stated some version of the phrase without attribution. Now, this pertains to the recent decision we made to “rename” ourselves the Public Information and Community Outreach Committee—PICO for short! We started out as PICO in 2000 and then changed our identity to the Courts and the Community Committee in 2011. We’re back to PICO again because we wanted to broaden the scope of our mission and expand our communication about the work of the courts beyond students to the media, journalists, and adults in the communities the Ninth Circuit serves.
We are off to a fast start with the 2020 Ninth Circuit Civics Contest which began on February 15th with the launch of the official contest website at https://www.ca9.uscourts. gov/civicscontest. The theme for this year’s essay and video competition for high school students is “The Right to Vote: Milestone Anniversaries.” In the wake of the 15th and 19th Amendments, barriers remained to prevent United States citizens from voting. Students are being asked if formal or informal barriers remain today and what additional changes, if any, would they make to Americans’ voting rights. The contest is in its seventh year and 2020 will be the fifth circuit-wide competition. All Ninth Circuit courts are again participating. I cannot thank enough all the chief judges and clerks of court for their ongoing support. So far, we’ve exceeded 100 entries in three weeks: a record!
The PICO Committee is looking ahead to a busy 2020 with a number of activities involving naturalization ceremonies at ballparks and the celebration of Constitution Day on September 17. One of our districts may be taking a cue from our colleagues in Tennessee by organizing a community reading of the United States Constitution. Stay tuned for more information as plans evolve! I am very proud to tell you about a unique and noteworthy project that opened right here in the Edward J. Schwartz U.S. Courthouse. “Portraits of Justice” is an art exhibit that features illustrations from some of the most famous real-life courtroom dramas in American history. The work of 26 artists is showcased throughout the courthouse and considering all the school groups and visitors we have had since the January opening, the Southern District of California is proud to be the venue for such an important exhibit.
The PICO Committee mourns the loss of one of our most active members, Senior Circuit Judge Raymond C. Fisher, who died February 29. Judge Fisher was a member of the Judicial Conference of the U.S. Committee on Judicial Branch and was co-chair of its Subcommittee on Civic Engagement and Education. His great ideas and enthusiasm for the work of the committee were inspiring. We wish Nancy and his family our deepest sympathies.
In closing, I want to add that we are fortunate to have great staff support who take our ideas and help us implement all the projects we develop. 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; and Katherine Rodriguez, communications administrator. Dr. Kari Kelso, the administrator of The Justice Anthony M. Kennedy Library and Learning Center in Sacramento, and Assistant Circuit Executive Renée Lorda who is now supporting the work of PICO and other Public Information Unit responsibilities in addition to her work with the Conference and Education Unit. We look forward to a dynamic and innovative 2020.