By Valerie Boots, Marion County Public Defender Agency
Recently, I gratefully accepted a scholarship from the Appellate Practice Section to attend the 2016 Appellate Judges Education Institute Summit in Philadelphia. I had heard about the summit for years from colleagues, but had never had an opportunity to attend before. Now I understand the enthusiasm I’ve seen in my colleagues after they returned from past summits. I hope to give you some idea of my extraordinary experience by relating just a couple of my favorite moments.
This year, our own Justice Steven David was the summit chair, and it was wonderful to see Indiana and our Supreme Court represented so honorably on such an impressive national stage.
This year’s summit began only hours after the election results were known. One of the first sessions was a panel discussion called, “Evolution or Revolution? The Future of the Supreme Court.” Imagine hearing the opinions of two brilliant legal scholars about the future of the Court just as the world was first considering the ramifications of a Donald Trump presidency with Republican majorities in both the House and Senate. Moderated by Amy Howe of SCOTUSBlog, the discussion featured heated disagreement between U.C. Irvine School of Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky and Ed Whelan, President of the Ethics and Public Policy Center. Fascinating!
Perhaps my most memorable experience at the summit was the session, “A Conversation with Justice Kagan,” ably facilitated by Justice David. Did you know that Justice Kagan had never touched a gun before her confirmation hearings, but later became an avid hunter through her close friendship with Justice Antonin Scalia? She spoke from the heart about her grief after his death. We learned her favorite Supreme Court opinion of all time is Justice Louis Brandeis’s concurrence in defense of freedom of speech in Whitney v. California. Brandeis is her hero. Justice Kagan was self-effacing, down to earth, engaging, and delightful. As to the future of the Supreme Court, she said the Court does not change as fast as some people hope, and does not change as fast as some people fear.
Four days of listening to and learning from some of the greatest legal experts alive was a privilege and inspiration I will never forget. And Philadelphia was an amazing backdrop to the summit. From a reception at the National Constitution Center (Signers’ Hall is not to be missed), to tours of Independence Hall and the Barnes Foundation, to lunch at the bustling Reading Terminal Market, I loved every moment of my summit weekend.
I will end with one of the many nuggets of practical advice I took away from the summit: We were introduced to a comprehensive white paper called Recommendations for Appellate Courts to Improve the Readability and Functionality of E-Briefs. Apparently, it has now been determined through scads of “eye-tracking” research, that the BEST FONT for readability on a screen is Century Schoolbook, in 12 or 13, with left alignment only. Now you know!
With many thanks for the generosity of the Appellate Section,
Marion County Public Defender Agency