Women and Children, First
CHICAGO, June 23, 2010 –ABA Journal profiles the encouraging trend in state courts of more women serving as chief justice – 20 states currently – in the July issue. The pattern is most prevalent in the South, with eight of 13 states having women lead their courts of last resort. “Tipping the Scales” by senior writer Mark Curriden details the influences for the shift toward women jurists in recent years. Among them are more women law school graduates and law firm associates, less emphasis on traditionally “male” areas of practice, and a number of special reports – including ABA’s own recent “Diversity in the Legal Profession: The Next Steps” that called for specific reforms and the recruitment of more women and minorities to the bench.
In a second major feature, “What’s the Matter with Kids Today” senior writer Mark Hansen explores new research developments in psychology and neuroscience that are showing distinct differences between adolescent and adult brains and how this information is affecting the direction of juvenile justice. One of the key findings, according to the article is that “while an individual’s cognitive abilities (thinking, reasoning) reach adult levels around the age of 16, studies show that psychosocial capabilities (impulse control, judgment, future orientation and resistance to peer pressure) continue to develop well into early adulthood.”
This evolution of thought on juvenile mental development has important implications for sentencing, particularly life without parole for juveniles in cases not involving murder, as evidenced by the recent ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in Graham v. Florida that outlawed life-without-parole sentencing in nonhomicide cases for individuals under age 18.
A different perspective on youth comes from the story “29 Is Not Enough” by Ernie Block. On the theory that a stable home life can make a world of difference to a child, this article tells the story of a couple that has fostered 29 children during their 26-year marriage. In the process, Gene Balloun and Sheila Wombles of Kansas City, Mo., have also created a post-secondary scholarship fund for foster children, born of a pro bono commitment by Balloun to represent foster parents in adoption proceedings and donate the state’s fee to the fund. Many legal colleagues have followed in his footsteps and the Kansas Foster and Adoptive Children’s Scholarship Fund now exists as a result.
“These articles—on the strides women have made in the judiciary, as well as critical matters affecting children like brain development and foster care— remind us of the breadth of issues confronting our profession and how deeply law touches all facets of society,” said Ed Adams, editor and publisher.
The ABA Journal covers the trends, people and finances of the legal profession. The flagship publication of the American Bar Association is sent to every ABA member and reaches more than half of the 1.1 million lawyers in this country each month. In addition, its Web site, www.ABAJournal.com, is updated every business day with 25 to 50 breaking legal news stories, features, a directory of more than 2,500 legal blogs, and an archive of the full text of the magazine going back through 2004.
With nearly 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is the largest voluntary professional membership organization in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, and provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law.