Sunday, October 5, 2008

Judge Deanell Tacha Honored with Distinguished Service to Justice Award

On Friday, I was home in Lawrence, Kansas to participate in a ceremony in which the 26th Annual Edward J. Devitt Distinguished Service to Justice Award was presented to Tenth Circuit Judge Deanell Reece Tacha.

Speakers at the award ceremony included Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, Judge Carolyn King of the Fifth Circuit, Chief Judge Robert Henry of the Tenth Circuit, Judge John Lungstrum of the District of Kansas, Judge Sarah Barker of the Southern District of Indiana, John Tacha, and me.

The Devitt Award honors Article III judges whose careers have been exemplary. Judge Tacha has been a judge on the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals since 1985, served on the U.S. Sentencing Commission, chaired the Judicial Division of the ABA, chaired the U.S. Judicial Conference Committee on the Judicial Brach, was President of the American Inns of Court, chaired the Appellate Judges Conference, was a member of the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession, was president of the Kansas University Alumni Association, and has been active in numerous other professional, civic, philanthropic, and cultural organizations.

During the ceremony, I remarked on how inspirational Judge Tacha was, and I read a poem written in honor of the occasion by Kansas Poet Laureate Denise Low:

For a Kansas Judge

For The Honorable Deanell Tacha

Central Plains wind stops for no woman
nor beast—not the cattle nor the sparrows.
Sometimes it carries straight-line rain
and sometimes glistening prisms of mist.
Pawnees and Spanish fought in the winds
and Cheyennes and American soldiers.

West winds blew through council fires
and brick court houses on town squares.
Gravity tugs the wind into whorls, never
easing its grip. These laws do not vary.

Each community learns the same lessons:
how sun returns after winter, how kindness
fosters survival, how the stories circle,
how law holds even the sky in order.

While all of the speakers at the ceremony were very impressive, Judge Henry's speech stood out for its humor, and John Tacha's for his warm personal insights into his wife's accomplishments. The crowd was impressive as well, with numerous judges on hand, along with a number of attorneys, professors, politicians, current and former law clerks, and other persons of note.

An article about the ceremony from the Lawrence Journal World and video of Judge Tacha's acceptance speech is available here.

 

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