Senior U.S. District Judge Rya Zobel, who grew up in Nazi Germany and later became the first woman to serve as director of the Federal Judicial Center, is the recipient of the 2020 Edward J. Devitt Distinguished Service to Justice Award.
The Devitt Award honors an Article III judge who has achieved a distinguished career and made significant contributions to the administration of justice, the advancement of the rule of law, and the improvement of society as a whole.
Recipients are chosen by a committee of federal judges, which this year was chaired by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Neil M. Gorsuch and included Judge Thomas M. Hardiman, of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, and U.S. District Judge Christine M. Arguello, of the District of Colorado.
Zobel, 89, came to the United States following World War II, joining relatives who were living in New York. Despite knowing little English when she arrived, she graduated from Harvard Law School at a time when the legal profession was overwhelmingly male. After rising to partner in her Boston law firm, Zobel was part of a historic class of 23 women who were appointed in 1979 to life-tenured federal judgeships. She is profiled in an online series about that class of judges.
“Judge Zobel’s life and service are inspirational,” Justice Gorsuch said in a statement. “It is an honor and a joy to recognize her trailblazing career and countless contributions. As one of her nominators explained, Judge Zobel’s life demonstrates ‘just what it means to be a true guardian of the Rule of Law.’”
Zobel shared credit for the honor.
“Although the award has only my name on it, I fully understand that it reflects the contributions of many to my professional and personal being,” she said. “They include, without limitation, my judicial colleagues in the District of Massachusetts, as well as my chambers staff and all other supporting personnel, my colleagues at the Federal Judicial Center, the lawyers who have appeared before me over the years and, of course, my family and many friends who were always encouraging even when critical. I thank them all.”
The award announcement noted that “during her more than 40 years of service as a federal judge, Judge Zobel has written nearly 2,000 decisions and served repeatedly in prominent roles of special trust.” These included service as first Chair of the Judicial Conference Committee on Automation and Technology, which led the Judiciary into the digital age, and as director of the Federal Judicial Center, the Judiciary’s research and education arm.
“Judicial temperament is a lack of arrogance born of self-confidence, of a sense of self,” Zobel said in the statement announcing her award. “It is an intuitive respect for all who appear before you. It is both measured restraint and measured intervention. It is fairness. It is equal treatment and open consideration of all participants in the process.”
Because of the pandemic, the normal full-scale reception and award presentation will not be held. Instead, a special dinner will be held next year at the Supreme Court in Zobel’s honor.
The Devitt Award is named for the late Edward J. Devitt, longtime chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota. The award was established in 1982.
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- Brooklyn Man Pleads Guilty in Manhattan Federal Court to Attempting to Provide Material Support to ISISBy Sam NewsAugust 10, 2020The Department of Justice announced that Zachary Clark, a/k/a “Umar Kabir,” a/k/a “Umar Shishani,” a/k/a “Abu Talha,” pleaded guilty to attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). Clark pled guilty today in Manhattan federal court before U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald. Judge Buchwald is scheduled to sentence Clark on Feb. 9, 2021, at 12:00 p.m.[Read More…]
- Honoring Anticorruption ChampionsBy Sam NewsFebruary 23, 2021
- Some Courts Slow Reopening Plans as COVID Cases RiseBy Sam NewsJuly 16, 2020At a time when some states are backtracking on plans to restore business and government operations, a number of federal courts also are slowing plans to reopen courthouse doors as coronavirus (COVID-19) case numbers escalate in many states. In recent weeks, federal courts, especially in Sun Belt “hot spot” states, have issued orders extending courthouse closures, postponement of jury trials, and the use of video and teleconferencing for most or all proceedings. Most of the orders cited rising COVID-19 numbers.[Read More…]
- More than 700 Members Of Transnational Organized Crime Groups Arrested in Central America in U.S. Assisted OperationBy Sam NewsNovember 27, 2020Today, senior law enforcement officials from the United States, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras announced criminal charges in Central America against more than 700 members of transnational criminal organizations, primarily MS-13 and 18th Street gangs, which resulted from a one-week coordinated law enforcement action under Operation Regional Shield (ORS).[Read More…]
- Office of Justice Programs Awards $261 Million to Support Youth Mentoring, Protect ChildrenBy Sam NewsOctober 9, 2020The Office of Justice [Read More…]
- Automated Technologies: DOT Should Take Steps to Ensure Its Workforce Has Skills Needed to Oversee SafetyBy Sam NewsDecember 18, 2020Stakeholders GAO interviewed said that federal oversight of automated technologies—such as those that control a function or task of a plane, train, or vehicle without human intervention—requires regulatory expertise as well as engineering, data analysis, and cybersecurity skills. Stakeholders also stated that as automated systems become more common across transportation modes, overseeing them will require understanding vehicle operating systems, software code, and the vast amounts of data produced by these systems to ensure their safety. Skills Needed to Oversee the Safety of Automated Technologies, according to Stakeholders The U.S. Department of Transportation's (DOT) Departmental Office of Human Resources Management has identified most skills DOT needs to oversee automated technologies, but it has not fully assessed whether its workforce has these skills. Through its workforce planning efforts, DOT identified many of the skills cited by stakeholders as important for overseeing automated technologies—regulatory expertise, engineering, and data analysis. In 2016 and 2020, DOT surveyed staff in related positions and identified gaps in some of these skills, including regulatory expertise. However, DOT did not survey staff or assess skill gaps in data analysis or cybersecurity positions important to automated technology oversight. As a result, DOT lacks critical information needed to identify skill gaps and ensure key relevant staff are equipped to oversee the safety of these technologies now and in the future. DOT developed strategies to address some but not all gaps in skills needed to oversee automated technologies. For example, DOT implemented some recruiting strategies and established hiring goals as a means of closing gaps identified in the 2016 survey and plans to continue these efforts in light of the 2020 survey. However, DOT has not tracked the progress of strategies implemented to close skill gaps since the 2016 survey, nor has it implemented training strategies. Accordingly, some skill gaps related to overseeing the safety of automated technologies will likely persist in DOT's workforce. Automated technologies in planes, trains, and passenger vehicles are in use today and likely to become increasingly widespread. While these technologies hold promise, accidents involving them demonstrate potential safety challenges. DOT is responsible for overseeing the safety of all modes of transportation. This report addresses: (1) stakeholders' perspectives on the skills required to oversee automated technologies; (2) the extent to which DOT has identified and assessed the skills it needs to oversee these technologies; and (3) the extent to which DOT has developed strategies to address any gaps in skills. GAO reviewed relevant literature and DOT workforce planning documents, and interviewed DOT human capital officials, selected modal administrations, and stakeholders, including transportation associations and technology developers. GAO selected modal administrations based in part on the prevalence of automated technologies. GAO is making four recommendations, including that DOT: (1) assess skill gaps in key occupations involved in overseeing automated technologies and (2) regularly measure the progress of strategies implemented to close skill gaps. DOT concurred with three recommendations and partially concurred with one on measuring progress. GAO clarified this recommendation and believes its implementation is warranted. For more information, contact Heather Krause at (202) 512-2834 or firstname.lastname@example.org.[Read More…]
- Aryeh Lightstone Designated as U.S. Special Envoy for Economic NormalizationBy Sam NewsDecember 31, 2020