D.C. Superior Court Chief Judge–designate Anita Josey-Herring wants to make sure the general public and legal professionals who deal with the District’s trial court system are treated fairly and professionally and has ideas on how she will make that happen as the first woman to hold that position.
Josey-Herring will be sworn in as the new chief judge of the D.C. Superior Court on Oct. 16, after serving almost 23 years as an associate judge and having been selected by the D.C. Judicial Nomination Commission as its new leader on July 21. A holder of ajuris doctorate from the Georgetown University Law Center in 1987, Josey-Herring clerked for D.C. Associate Superior Court Judge Herbert Dixon before working for the D.C. Public Defender’s Service, where she rose from staff attorney to deputy director. In 1997, President Clinton appointed her to the Superior Court bench where she has worked in most divisions of the court, serving as the presiding judge in the Family Division. Reappointed by President Obama in 2012, Josey-Herring decided to apply for the chief judge’s position upon the retirement of Robert E. Morin.
“I have been involved in this community for many decadesand I am committed to public service,” Josey-Herring told the Informer. “I see the position of chief judge as one that can make the community better. I have a passion for justice and when people come to the courthouse, I want them to see all types of people on the bench and I want them to be treated fairly and equitably.”
Josey-Herring wants people to realize that judges “have walked in their shoes.” She said her goal will be to set policies and implement her vision of a court focusing on equal protection, due process and justice for all.
“I want the court to be a fair place for people,” Josey-Herring said.
Josey-Herring will manage a trial court system with 62 judges—associate, magistrate and senior–and support staff working in the criminal, civil, family, landlord and tenant, probate, tax and driving violations divisions. She said during the coronaviruspandemic, people are taking care of their legal matters virtually or by telephone instead of coming to the courthouse. Josey-Herring said the virtual process has worked well so far. She said when the pandemic ceases, a feasibility study likely will be commissioned to see what aspects should remain for the benefit of the public.
Josey-Herring said she realizes visiting the courthouse can be an intimidating process. She said measures such as making the courtroom’s furnishings more elegant, having a childcare section for people visiting the court and a public board at the entrance of the courthouse where judges’ names, rooms and cases are listed are in place. Josey-Herring also wants to expand the utilization of members of the District of Columbia Bar Association in helping people with their legal matters.
Josey-Herring said employees who possess up-to-date skills often deal with the public the best and would like continuing education to be mandatory.
“Our employees are expected but not required to take 10 hours of continuing education but I would like to change that,” she said. “We offer our employees courses in the tech field, soft skills in dealing with the public but everyone is required to take implicit bias and sexual harassment training.”
Being the first woman to lead the District’s trial court system excites Josey-Herring. She said a step forward has taken place in a branch of the District government.
“Women and girls have something to look forward to,” she said. “A glass ceiling has been shattered.”