#5 | Dec 2023

The Federal Judges Association Newsletter

The Bench Press

Hello Colleagues!

President's Message

Dear Federal Judges Association (FJA) Members:

It is hard to believe that we have already made it to the last month of the year. December is a month filled with traditions, celebrations, and quality time with family and friends.

For many, it is a time to observe holidays, including Hanukkah, Christmas, and the New Year. As we enter this season, make it a time of rest, relaxation, and reflection. We hope each of you have blessed and happy holidays!

We are so grateful for your contributions to the federal judiciary. 

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor Tribute




The Federal Judges Association grieves the loss of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. As we mourn the loss of Justice O’Connor, we honor her life and celebrate her lasting legacy as a jurist, attorney, and champion of women’s rights.


Justice O’Connor was a woman of many firsts, breaking the glass ceilings which traditionally kept women out of the legal field. From not being offered any jobs as an attorney out of law school because of her gender to becoming the first woman on the nation’s highest court, Justice O’Connor was a trailblazer in the path towards gender equality. In her words, “As women achieve power, the barriers will fall. As society sees what women can do, as women see what women can do, there will be more women out there doing things, and we’ll all be better off for it." [1] As Judges and as Americans, we are all better because of the life of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.


While serving as a justice on the Supreme Court of the United States for almost twenty-five years, she authored 645 opinions[2] and served as a key swing vote for many important decisions. Justice O’Connor is remembered for her impeccable clarity, pragmatism, and commitment to “Equal Justice Under the Law” for all Americans. Having served in all branches of government throughout her career, Justice O’Connor valued judicial independence, the Rule of Law, the democratic process, and civics education.


The nation grieves at the loss of Justice O’Connor, a distinguished attorney, jurist, and recipient of the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. 


May we honor and respect her. May she rest in peace.

[1] https://www.supremecourt.gov/visiting/exhibitions/SOCExhibit/Section2.aspx#SOCExhibit2

[2] https://oconnorinstitute.org/supreme-court-opinions/

New Member Highlight

The FJA Welcomes

Judge Cory T. Wilson

Judge Cory Wilson’s bio is easy on the eyes: Yale Law School, White House Fellow, prestigious clerkship, Mississippi House of Representatives, Judge on the Mississippi Court of Appeals, and, as of June 2020, Judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. FJA leadership recently had the chance to learn more about the person behind the CV.


Judge Wilson spoke with high admiration for Judge Emmett Ripley Cox, for whom he clerked on the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals: “I knew I would learn a lot and write even more,” Judge Wilson said. “What I did not know was that I was getting a lifelong mentor and friend out of the deal. What was extraordinary about Judge Cox was that our relationship wasn’t extraordinary. He really invested in his clerks.”


Maggie Kate Bobo, alumna law clerk to Judge Wilson, described him as “the original energizer bunny” and added: “Judge Wilson seeks to model his relationship with his law clerks on his own relationship with Judge Cox and he does a fantastic job with it. He truly forms a mentor relationship with them. He takes time each week to sit down at our conference room table and to go out for chambers lunch. He cares about our personal lives.”


Like Judge Cox, Judge Wilson holds annual reunions of his law clerks. There were verified reports of great fun at these events, but also high levels of competition on the 27-foot regulation-size cornhole field. Ms. Bobo stated: “These events are a bit notorious—not everyone takes cornhole so seriously as we do in Mississippi. One time, he took us all on a bowling outing,” she noted, adding that “he failed to mention that he is a ringer—he beat some of us badly.” Judge Wilson was eager to state that his chambers had failed to detect any statistically significant standard deviation in cornhole performance for the many non-Mississippi natives who clerk for him, adding: “This year, we have some really good players, though we have had some clerks throw backwards.”


Judge Wilson added that he seeks to pay forward the legacy of Judge Cox. “He wore bowties. I wear a bowtie at least once during sittings. It’s a tribute to him, a legacy thing. Judge Cox set a high standard. I try to live up to it and pay it forward.”


Judge Wilson offered another reason that he works to pay it forward when he spoke about his grandmother, Rita and his grandfather, a veteran of World War II who came to Pascagoula to build submarines. In 1992, Judge Wilson was accepted to Yale Law School. It was positive news with an asterisk. He could not afford to go. But his grandmother, by then widowed, gave him his inheritance early. It was not a huge sum (though it was for her) but it was enough to make ends meet that first year. And she was “watching along” at his investiture at the Mississippi Court of Appeals and during his confirmation hearing for the Fifth Circuit. She will turn 97 in February. “Everyone has a story,” Judge Wilson said, “of someone who’s invested and helped to get them where they are. It’s an American story. Nobody got to where they are all on their own.”


Judge Wilson also brings experience in both legislative and executive branches. Senator Chris Johnson, “deskmate” with Judge Wilson when both served in the Mississippi House, commented: “Cory, of course, is a very brilliant person, but he has the ability to speak about things in layperson’s terms. Equally, he was never afraid of taking difficult votes. He would consider the issue carefully and do what he thought was best.” Senator Johnson said that Judge Wilson always kept an open mind—“sometimes, he would know so much about a bill he had written that he would talk himself out of it as he considered it even more carefully.”


Judge Wilson spoke of his time in the Mississippi House with gratitude: “I learned a lot from the non-lawyers there—it was an education to realize how most people look at lawyers and legal services. I carry that with me now. And, to see the ordinary things, unsung things, that people do every day that make the country great.”


In 2005-2006, Judge Wilson was a White House Fellow with the Secretary of Defense. Reflecting on this experience, Judge Wilson expressed special appreciation for the non-lawyers in his class: “Ob-gyn’s and entrepreneurs and nuclear scientists, all brought their skills to serve the public interest.” Judge Wilson recalled “how Secretary Rumsfeld taught a lot about leadership”— usually by example—issuing one or two sentence taskers (called “snowflakes” because they would “flurry off of his desk”), each related to a complicated issue. Rumsfeld expected an analysis of that issue to be limited to one page. For Judge Wilson, “it was a great lesson in getting to the point.”


Judge Wilson ended where he began: “I try to raise a little cane with the crew [his law clerks] — try to make it a fun year for them. Real cool thing to have them stop through.”

We welcome Judge Wilson to the FJA.

Committee Updates

Our committees have worked tirelessly over the past few weeks. Here are some highlights of their accomplishments!

Benefits Soldiers Bonuses Concept. Soldier Benefit.


Chairs: Leo Gordon and Dan Polster

The Pay and Benefits Committee conducted a very informative Brown Bag Webinar on Health Care Services on November 28 at 12:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. and on November 30 at 1:00 p.m. to offer information and answer questions about choosing a benefit plan and scheduling a complimentary, personalized FEHB consultation.

For judges who are eligible for Medicare, guidance was provided on evaluating options for enrollment in Medicare and FEHB coverage.

If you were unable to attend any of the sessions we have a recording available - please click the link below.

Health Benefits Recording

The webinar recording will also be available on the FJA website in the members only section under Benefits Resources and will be available until December 30, 2023. A special thanks is owed to Leo Gordon for coordinating these events.

Concept of providing law consultation and legal advice online. Trustworthy wise senior judge_ attorney or lawyer sitting at office desk with laptop computer_ papers and gavel. High angle_ from above


Chairs: Larry Piersol and James Carr

The Judicial Resources Committee met on November 29, 2023. The Committee was to receive recommendations from the Administrative Office in advance of the meeting with recommendations regarding Senior Judge Staffing. The recommendations were going to be provided by the Committee to the Senior Judge Committee of the FJA, and we were going to be able to comment on the subject of Senior Judge staffing to the Judicial Resources Committee at its meeting.


In lieu of making recommendations as originally planned, the Administrative Office recently decided that there should be a subcommittee of the Judicial Resources Committee to study the subject of Senior Judge staffing. Ultimately, the full Committee will make recommendations to the Budget Committee.


No subcommittee has yet been named. Once a subcommittee is formed, then the FJA Senior Judge Committee looks forward to presenting to the subcommittee and ultimately, to the full Committee.

December Thirst for Knowledge Thursday

December 14, 2023


Chairs: Pam Pepper and Leo Gordon

Join your FJA colleagues virtually, but still spiritedly, on Thursday, December 14, 2023 for December’s Thirst for Knowledge Thursday program: an hour of sparkling conversation around sparkling beverages!


Bring your own fizzy favorite (wine or non-alcoholic beverage), and we will share a toast to the holidays and the new year. The proceedings will be led by Hank Zona of The Grapes Unwrapped, a New York-area wine events professional, writer and, on occasion, judge (wine only!), who will provide a practical but light and lively primer on sparkling beverages.

If you want suggestions on what to bring, you can reach Hank at [email protected] 

or 917-414-8957 and he would be happy to provide some suggestions. (First one - look for half bottles!)


Thursday, December 14, 2023

4:30 p.m. PST/5:30 p.m. MST/

6:30 p.m. CST/7:30 p.m. EST

Zoom Link
compass with needle pointing the word ethics. Conceptual 3d illustration of business integrity and moral


Chair: Al Diaz

Through the offices of Judge Diaz, an ethics article entitled, “The Courthouse Ethics and Transparency Act: New Obligations for Federal Judges” was published in the Judicature and is linked here. We especially encourage you to check out the quiz at the end!

International law and global legal system concept as a justice scale shaped as the world as a metaphor for diplomatic treaty agreement or relations among nations as a 3D illustration.


Chair: Cynthia Rufe

In November, Judge McKeown visited Santiago, Chile where she gave a lecture in Spanish at the Universidad de Desarrollo and the Observatorio Judicial on Rule of Law and Democracy. She also met with the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Chile, who invited her to attend the celebration for the 200th anniversary of the Court. Her visit to the Court was facilitated by Alejandro Vera, President of the Chilean Judges Association, whom Judge McKeown met in Taiwan through the International Judges Association.

Membership concept with hand pressing social icons on blue world map background.


Chair: Nannette Brown

The membership committee will meet by Zoom on December 8 at noon CST. Anyone interested in participating or listening in who is not a member of the committee should contact Nannette Brown at [email protected] for a zoom link.

  • Total Members – 1097

New Members

  • Judge Kymberly Katherine Evanson– Western District of Washington
  • Judge Matthew L. Garcia – District of New Mexico
  • Judge Gina R. Mendez-Miro – District of Puerto Rico
  • Judge Gabriel O. Sanchez – Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals

The following are recently appointed district judges, listed by circuit and district court. If you are a representative to the Board from your circuit, if they are new members of your court, or if you know them personally, the Membership Committee urges you to please reach out and stress the importance and value of FJA membership. We have found that the personal touch of colleagues is invaluable to increasing our membership rolls.

Newly Appointed Judges

  • Judge Julia E. Kobick - 1st Circuit - District of Massachusetts
  • Judge Raymon Ernesto Reyes, Jr. - 2nd Circuit - Eastern District of New York
  • Judge Margaret M. Garnett - 2nd Circuit - Southern District of New York
  • Judge Jamel Semper - 3rd Circuit - District of New Jersey
  • Judge Matthew James Maddox -4th Circuit - District of Maryland
  • Judge Brandy R. McMillion - 6th Circuit - Eastern District of Michigan
  • Judge Jeffrey M. Bryan - 8th Circuit - District of Minnesota
  • Judge Ana Isabel de Alba - 9th Circuit - Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals
  • Judge Monica Ramirez Almadani - 9th Circuit - Central District of California
  • Judge Kenley Kiya Kato - 9th Circuit - Central District of California
  • Judge Micah W. J. Smith - 9th Circuit - District of Hawaii

In Remembrance

As we celebrate these new members and newly appointed judges, let us also remember and honor the lives of Judge Robert G. Doumar of the Eastern District of Virginia and Judge Bruce S. Jenkins of the District of Utah who recently passed away.

Upcoming Events

Thirst for Knowledge Thursday - Holiday Cheer

December 14, 2023

4:30 p.m. PST/5:30 p.m. MST/

6:30 p.m. CST/7:30 p.m. EST

Bring your own fizzy favorite (wine or non-alcoholic beverage), and we will share a toast to the holidays and the new year. The proceedings will be led by Hank Zona of The Grapes Unwrapped, a New York-area wine events professional, writer and, on occasion, judge (wine only!), who will provide a practical but light and lively primer on sparkling beverages.

Zoom Link


Judge Cynthia Rufe Receives

Hon. Lowell A. Reed Distinguished

Professionalism Award

October 26, 2023

Judge Cynthia Rufe received the Hon. Lowell A. Reed Distinguished Professionalism award on October 26th, 2023.

The award was presented at the Temple American Inn of Court special annual program. “This Award is bestowed on a past or present member of the Temple American Inn of who has provided distinguished, exceptional, and significant contributions to the Inns of Court movement, who reflects the values of civility and ethics which Judge Lowell A. Reed, Jr. epitomized, and who has a demonstrated record of pro bono service.”

Congratulations Judge Rufe, our esteemed Past President.

Text Save the date on white paper on the laptop computer   business concept
Judge with wooden gavel on table

WHAT: FJA 2024 Board Meeting

WHEN: April 17 - 19, 2024

WHERE: The Hyatt Centric Chicago Magnificent Mile

Silk wavy flag of Portugal graphic. Wavy Portugese flag illustration. Rippled Portugal country flag is a symbol of freedom_ patriotism and independence.

WHAT: The FJA has partnered with the National Judicial College to join them for a seminar and conference in Portugal

WHEN: September 9-12, 2024

WHERE: Portuguese Center for Judicial Studies

More information to follow. Please join us!

J. Michelle Childs


Mary Scriven

Communications Committee Chair