California Lawyers Association

Incoming Chief Justice Makes Surprise Appearance at Civics Event During Annual Meeting

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Lawyers and judges took time out of their busy Annual Meeting schedules last month to educate and engage about 90 fifth graders from Rice Elementary School in the Chula Vista Elementary School District. The interactive program was designed to underscore the importance of civic engagement to maintain a vibrant and healthy society.  

One of the highlights was an unexpected visit from Justice Patricia Guerrero, who is set to become the first Latina to serve as Chief Justice of California in January.  

“It was really a heartwarming event,” said Jerrilyn Malana, chair of the California Lawyers Association (CLA) Civic Engagement and Outreach (CEO) Committee. “It was an excellent outreach event for CLA to connect with students from an underserved region in the local community.”

The event was organized by the CEO committee and co-sponsored by the CLA Litigation Section’s Committee on Access to Justice and Civic Engagement, and the California Lawyers Foundation.

Administrative Presiding Justice Judith McConnell of the Fourth District Court of Appeal kicked off the program. Justice McConnell serves as Chair of the Power of Democracy Steering Committee, and she talked about the three branches of government, the role of the judicial branch, and what lawyers and judges do. 

Using the “No Animals Allowed” curriculum, volunteer judges and attorneys facilitated a discussion with the students about how the rule of law impacts our world. The students left with copies of the foundation-produced comic book “What Do Lawyers and Judges Do?”

The other heroes of the day were San Diego County Superior Court Judge Peter C. Deddeh, who attended Rice Elementary, and “Ollie” the golden retriever from the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office.  Ollie normally serves as a facility and emotional support dog for children who are crime victims or must testify in court. Ollie and his handler, Victim Advocate Magen Queen, greeted the students and teachers as they stepped off the buses that brought them to the San Diego event. 

“Ollie led a parade of the students and their teachers to the conference room where the civics event was held. It was a fun, spectacular sight with a lot of smiles,” Malana said. 

Organizers were thrilled that attendance at the outreach event nearly doubled from 2019, the last time the event was in person at the Annual Meeting in Monterey. They look forward to hosting it again at the 2023 Annual Meeting in San Diego. 

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