Community outreach is critical to the mission of the administration of justice. One of the primary goals of our district’s Public Outreach Committee is to educate young people and the public about the important role that the Federal Courts, our Judges and our lawyers play in preserving the rule of law.
Over the years, the Judges of our court have worked to develop strong ties to the community. These connections have been maintained and strengthened by the various community outreach efforts initiated by our Judges individually and collectively.
Outreach Impacting the Community
[+] Federal Court Naturalizes Citizens as Part of National Celebration of Constitution Day and Citizenship Day[–] Federal Court Naturalizes Citizens as Part of National Celebration of Constitution Day and Citizenship Day
America's newest citizens took the Oath of Allegiance at naturalization ceremonies from New York to Alaska, including in New Orleans, Louisiana, as part of this year's celebration of Constitution Day and Citizenship Day, on September 17, 2014.
The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana is among two dozen federal courts around the country which held naturalization ceremonies marking the date in 1787 that Constitutional Convention delegates signed the nation’s founding document. Ninety-nine petitioners from more than thirty countries took the Oath of Allegiance at the New Orleans ceremony held on Wednesday morning at Roussel Hall at Loyola University New Orleans. Judge Mary Ann Vial Lemmon of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana spearheaded the planning and presided over the ceremony. United States Magistrate Judge Karen Wells Roby also presided.
Students from sixteen different schools attended the event. As part of the program, student JROTC members from Jesuit High School presented the Colors; the Warren Easton High School Concert Band performed the National Anthem and other patriotic music; the St. Katharine Drexel Preparatory School Choir sang patriotic songs; the Constitution Day Essay Contest Winner, Forge Mathes from St. Paul’s Catholic School, read his essay; and a cast from the International High School of New Orleans presented the skit “America, A Nation of Our Own: Gateway to Freedom.” In addition, Reverend Kevin Wildes, S.J., President of Loyola University New Orleans, welcomed all attendees, and the Daughters of the American Revolution lead the Pledge of Allegiance. United States Attorney Kenneth A. Polite, Jr., of the Eastern District of Louisiana, Kimberly Silas of the Louisiana State Bar Association, and Dean María Pabón López of the Loyola University New Orleans College of Law were the keynote speakers.
“The Naturalization ceremony is an extremely important and meaningful event in the lives of the new citizens,” said Judge Lemmon. “The immigrants study our government and pledge themselves to follow our Constitution and laws. Scheduling this event on Constitution Day emphasizes the importance of this pledge of allegiance.”
This is the first time the Federal Judiciary has coordinated a day of naturalization ceremonies across the nation. To support Constitution Day and Citizenship Day, as well as court-related civics education, the federal courts provided multi-media educational resources for use in courtrooms and classrooms.
The federal courts’ national initiative is part of broader efforts by the Civics Renewal Network (CRN) convened by the Leonore Annenberg Institute for Civics at the Annenberg Public Policy Center. CRN is an alliance of 26 organizations dedicated to raising the visibility of civics education and providing free, high-quality resources for teachers. Partners include the Library of Congress, the National Archives and Records Administration, the National Constitution Center, the Newseum, the National Endowment for the Humanities’ EDSITEment, and the U.S. Courts. Louisiana Center for Law and Civic Education played a large role in the event, with its executive director, Peggy Cotogno organizing participation by area high schools.
[+] Federal Courts’ National Outreach Initiative “Open Doors to Federal Courts”[–] Federal Courts’ National Outreach Initiative “Open Doors to Federal Courts.”
Judge Roby, a U.S. Magistrate Judge has served as our court’s coordinating judicial officer of the judiciary’s outreach program “Open Doors to Federal Courts” is an umbrella for national and local initiatives that link courts to their communities through an annual event at federal courthouses across the nation. The interactive learning experience brings teachers, high school seniors, bar associations, and the media into the courthouses to interact with federal judges and court staff. This event underscores that jury service is an adult privilege and responsibility.
[+] Working for Justice: Careers in the Courts[–] Working for Justice: Careers in the Courts
A signature program conducted in 2003 where students learned about various careers that are available in the courts.
[+] Middle School Mock Trial Experience[–] Middle School Mock Trial Experience
Middle School students have the opportunity to visit federal court and present an oral argument based upon a mock proceeding entitled Snow White and the Witch. This opportunity is typically coordinated in connection with area schools study of the government and its three branches.
Judge Berrigan hosts students from Crescent Leadership Academy (CLA), which is a Type 5 Charter School providing alternative educational services to students in grades 7-12 in the New Orleans Recovery School District. While the primary focus is attendance, CLA serves a wide population of students and is focused on high achievement levels of the New Orleans alternative school population. The students receive an Individualized Learning Plan and customized educational environments that address different learning styles.
[+] Judicial Hammers - Habitat for Humanity[–] Judicial Hammers - Habitat for Humanity
In addition to our work with lawyers and students, our judges have galvanized to give back to the New Orleans community and participate in several house builds through Habitat for Humanity.
[+] Serving Up the Homeless[–] Serving Up the Homeless
Coordinated by Judge Helen Ginger Berrigan, U.S. District Judge of our Court, once a month, our judges along with their staff and extended court family serve food to the homeless for several hours. The judges also through their community work get to interact and lunch with area homeless citizens.
[+] SOLACE[–] SOLACE
The SOLACE program — an acronym for Support of Lawyers/Legal Personnel, All Concern Encouraged was co-created by Judge Zainey, U.S. District Judge of our Court, recognizing that many Louisiana attorneys and legal professionals face difficult personal tragedies often had limited access to, and limited knowledge of, assistance avenues, and realizing that many other Louisiana attorneys and legal professionals had vast resources of compassion and contacts. The program began operation on Oct. 28, 2002, with a few attorneys and legal professionals forming the initial assistance network. The network has grown to more than 5,000 legal professionals, all quickly accessible by e-mail. To date, the network has assisted more than 500 individuals and families. That assistance can come in the form of a condolence card to the grieving family of a deceased attorney to immediate air transportation for an attorney needing to get to a hospital out-of-state for a life-saving organ transplant.
The SOLACE program now has over 8000 members in Louisiana and also in 15 states and Puerto Rico.
[+] Angola Trip[–] Angola Trip
Once a year, Judge Berrigan, in conjunction with the Young Lawyers Division of the Federal Bar Association, New Orleans Chapter, takes a group of at-risk teenagers to the Louisiana State Penitentiary as a field trip. This year's group was from Crescent Leadership Academy. The group consisted of a mixture of "choice" students who enrolled at CLA and students who had been expelled from other public schools. On the way to Angola, the group viewed "The Farm", an award winning documentary about the Louisiana State Penitentiary. At Angola, the students met with an inmate who spoke to them and answered questions for about 45 minutes. They then ate a typical prison meal at one of the outcamps, served by inmates. They traveled throughout the prison, visiting a typical dormitory of 70 inmate residents and their meager area for their belongings, the common showers and bathrooms and the one television set, the Death House and the actual room where executions take place; and Point Lookout, where inmates are buried who have no family members to claim them. Upon their return, they wrote essays about the trip, with the winning essays earning a $50 gift certificate. The $50 prize and the trip are funded by a grant obtained by the Young Lawyers Division of the Federal Bar Association, New Orleans Chapter.
[+] Re-Entry Court[–] Re-Entry Court
Judge Berrigan presides over a "Re-Entry Court." This court focuses on eleven recently released prisoners from federal custody who are on supervised release. The group is selected because of their high risk of recidivating, in accordance with factors associated with returning to prison - such as a long history of substance abuse, lack of strong family support, and so on. The program provides support services in terms of substance abuse counseling, mental health assistance, cognitive therapy training, Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous meetings, which the group attends together. For the first month, they meet weekly in Judge Berrigan's courtroom to go over their progress in the previous week. Those that have successfully completed everything for that week, get "the basket" - a large basket of candy bars of various kids, crackers and nuts. Once the first month is completed, those that have completed all the program components "graduate" to twice a month meetings, although they continue with their weekly joint activities. Eventually the meetings are reduced to once a month, followed by graduation.
This is the second Re-Entry Court that the judge has presiding over. In March of 2012, the first group was started. Of the original eleven members, seven graduated successfully, having completed the program entirely. Two others were retained on supervised release, and have not had any violations. One other member was so successful with his work that he was able to drop out of the program and the last participant, unfortunately, was shot and killed early in the program by someone in his neighborhood with a grudge against him.
[+] General Service Board of Alcoholics Anonymous, Inc.[–] General Service Board of Alcoholics Anonymous, Inc.
Judge Lemelle, U.S.District Court Judge, EDLA, serves as a Class A Trustee (nonalcoholic board member) which provides various services to alcoholics and families of same on local, regional, national and international levels.
[+] Cafe Reconcile[–] Cafe Reconcile
Judge Lemelle serves on its board which is a nonprofit restaurant that uses innovative strategies to provide life skills and job training to youth from at-risk communities in the New Orleans area. Many of the young people helped through this program move into permanent jobs in New Orleans' food service industry.
[+] HELP - Homeless Experience Legal Protection[–] HELP - Homeless Experience Legal Protection
HELP began in New Orleans in early 2004, when a newly appointed federal district court judge, Jay Zainey, accompanied his fellow judges to serve a meal at a local shelter. While serving the meal, Judge Zainey began to think how much more an attorney could do for the shelter clients, and how that kind of service could change people's lives. With that simple but electrifying thought, HELP was born. Judge Zainey began to round up volunteer lawyers to staff a weekly clinic at the shelter, and had more success than he had ever imagined. Soon he had hundreds of lawyers, clinics in more than one shelter, and the desire to do even more. HELP began to expand to other cities, helped along by law firms who were volunteering in New Orleans but also had offices in other cities. Today, HELP volunteers are providing free legal services to the homeless in over 21 cities, and plans are underway to develop programs in ten more cities by the end of 2014.
[+] New Orleans Homeless Court Program[–] New Orleans Homeless Court Program
The New Orleans Homeless Court (NOHC) started in May of 2010 with the help of Judge Zainey with the New Orleans Municipal court Judges. The NOHC convenes once a month on the third Wednesday of every month in Orleans Parish Municipal Court, Courtroom A. Judge Paul Sens, Chief Judge of Municipal Court, presides.
A significant percentage of the Orleans Parish Municipal Court docket consists of homeless men and women, many of whom find themselves on the Municipal Court docket on a regular basis. NOHC offers assistance to these defendants in two ways. The Court recognizes that these defendants are best served by treatment, not punishment. NOHC is designed to assist the homeless receive much needed treatment and services. When the docket convenes on the third Wednesday of every month, present in Court are a number of homeless service providers, including UNITY of New Orleans, an umbrella group of providers that works to find suitable housing; Veterans Justice Outreach; Metropolitan Human Services District, and local homeless shelters. Many of these providers are already case workers for the defendants in Court. For those without a case worker, an assessment can be done and services identified. NOHC also aims to help those individuals ready to move on with their lives to clear their record of legal offenses related to their homeless condition and which pose an impediment to placement in housing and/or employment.
[+] Veterans Treatment Court[–] Veterans Treatment Court
Most veterans are strengthened by their military service, but the combat experience has unfortunately left a growing number of veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury. One in five veterans has symptoms of a mental health disorder or cognitive impairment. One in six veterans who served in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom suffers from a substance abuse issue. Research continues to draw a link between substance abuse and combat-related mental illness. Left untreated, mental health disorders common among veterans can directly lead to involvement in the criminal justice system.
The Veterans Treatment Court model requires regular court appearances (a bi-weekly minimum in the early phases of the program), as well as mandatory attendance at treatment sessions and frequent and random testing for substance use (drug and/or alcohol). Veterans respond favorably to this structured environment given their past experiences in the Armed Forces. However, a few will struggle and it is exactly those veterans who need a Veterans Treatment Court program the most. Without this structure, these veterans will re-offend and remain in the criminal justice system. The Veterans Treatment Court is able to ensure they meet their obligations to themselves, the court, and their community.
Judge Zainey helped to develop the Veterans Treatment Court with the assistance of Lilia Valdez-Lindsley, Veterans Justice Outreach Specialist for the Veterans Administration, and Chief Judge John Molaison and Judge Ellen Kovach of the 24th Judicial District Court.
[+] Veterans Legal Assistance[–] Veterans Legal Assistance
Judge Zainey, along with the Young Lawyers Division of the Federal Bar Association, New Orleans Chapter, has implemented a veteran's legal assistance program. Periodically, attorneys in the New Orleans area staff a clinic designed to aid veterans with various civil legal issues. The last event was held on Veterans Day at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post on Lyons Street in New Orleans.
[+] Boss for a Day[–] Boss for a Day
Chief United States Probation Officer Kito Bess hosts an annual Boss for a Day program where students from area high schools who are interested in the legal profession, government work, the military, or law enforcement job-shadow with court and government professionals. The participants learn about available government jobs, and the education needed to obtain them.
[+] International High School of New Orleans Internship Program[–] International High School of New Orleans Internship Program
Judges Mary Ann Vial Lemmon and Sally Shushan spearheaded an internship program with the International High School of New Orleans for the 2012-2013 school year. The program placed students with various government agencies and local law firms to introduce the students to careers in the government or legal profession. The students were able to use the experience in creating their "Senior Projects," which are hands-on research projects required by the school for graduation.
[+] The History of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana[–] The History of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana
In 2012, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana celebrated 200 years of federal courts in Louisiana. Judge Mary Ann Vial Lemmon chaired a committee of judges, attorneys, and historians to create a website and a seminar exploring the court's history. The court worked with the International High School of New Orleans to present a play at the seminar depicting why Louisiana is a civil law state. The play was written by attorney Barry Ashe and the costumes were created by attorney Mary Dumestre. Video clips of the seminar can be viewed on the court's historical webpages.
Law Related Education
[+] Louisiana Commission on Civic Education[–] Louisiana Commission on Civic Education
In fall of 2013, Judge Roby was appointed to serve as the Louisiana Supreme Court's designee to the Louisiana Commission on Civic Education as a result of her work in the area of civic education. The Louisiana Commission on Civic Education was established to educate students of the importance of citizen involvement in a representative democracy and to promote communication and collaboration among organizations in the state that conduct civic education programs. The commission is responsible for educating citizens in the community as well as students on the importance of citizenship and for promoting communication and collaboration among organizations in the state that conduct civic education programs. The commission which consist of state department heads meet three times a year in the state capital.
[+] District Judges Association of the Fifth Circuit[–] District Judges Association of the Fifth Circuit
Judge Lemelle is the President, of the DJAFC which provides educational service to member judges and support to their families in times of need.
[+] LSBA/JTBF Suit up for the Future Summer High School Intern Program[–] LSBA/JTBF Suit up for the Future Summer High School Intern Program
Coordinated by Judge Roby as a member of the LSBA Diversity Committee this program brings 28 High school students into the court during this three week intern program to learn about the court system and how it operates, these students also learn from law professors who teach at area law schools, and in addition visit other courts in the area. As a culmination of the their internship experience the students use the skills they have acquired and present an oral argument in a competition before several federal and state court judges.
[+] Our Courts America[–] Our Courts America
Judge Roby serves on the Board of Our Courts America. Our Courts America is a national partnership of court advocates working to educate the public about the crucial role of state and federal courts, defend judges from threats and intimidation, promote diversity, and advocate reforms to keep campaign cash out of the courtroom. Our goal is fair, impartial justice for all. Americans need to understand their courts, how they work, and how they protect our liberties. When people understand the importance of their courts, they are more likely to support them against efforts to weaken court powers, to make judges vulnerable to political pressure, or to reduce judicial system funding.
Judge Roby with
[+] Louisiana Legislature: Law and Civic Education Day 2007[–] Louisiana Legislature: Law and Civic Education Day 2007
As President of the Center for Law and Civic Education, U.S. Magistrate Judge Karen Roby addressed the legislature about the importance of Civic Education in Public Schools. The Louisiana Center for Law and Civic Education promotes the practical understanding of, and respect for, the law throughout Louisiana which is achieved by coordinating, implementing, and developing Law and Civic Education programs, by training others in the delivery of Law and Civic Education and assisting schools and interested community organizations with the delivery of quality Law and Civics Education programs.
[+] Lunch with the Court[–] Lunch with the Court
Lunch with the court is coordinated by the Young Lawyers Division of the Federal Bar Association, New Orleans Chapter. This is an excellent opportunity for newly licensed attorneys to meet federal judges informally, to socialize with other attorneys new to the practice, and to gain valuable insight from the judges on practice in federal court.
[+] American Inns of Court Foundation Board[–] American Inns of Court Foundation Board
Judge Lemelle, U.S. District Court Judge, EDLA serves as a Trustee Board Member. The AICFB works on sponsoring and promoting various educational and mentoring programs for high school students, law students, and young lawyers at regional and national levels.