Trina S. Vincent
| OCTOBER 4, 2019
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Louisiana Judges attend the First Pan American Judges' Summit
At the personal invitation of His Holiness Pope Francis and Bishop Chancellor Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, Louisiana Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal Judge Joy Cossich Lobrano and Orleans Parish Civil District Court Judge Bernadette D’Souza attended the First Pan American Judges' Summit on Social Justice and the Franciscan Doctrine on June 3rd and 4th at the Academy in the Vatican City. The Academy, which is autonomous, promotes the study and progress of the social sciences, primarily economics, sociology, law, and political science, and maintains a close relationship with the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. Through dialogue, the Academy offers the Church the elements that can be used in the development of the Church's social doctrine and reflect on the application of that doctrine in contemporary society.
Pope Francis, who is actively involved in the Church's service to the poor and marginalized of the world, impaneled the summit to “further his message that justices and judges can help to reorganize our social and economic life to uphold the values that create happiness such as contemplation, prayer, equity, fraternity, friendship, trust, environmental sustainability, and peace. Justices and judges can collaborate to achieve these values.” The summit brought together justices and judges from all over the Americas who have an active role in the application and development of social, economic, and cultural justice in order to share their experiences, successes, best practices, and projects.
Judge Lobrano, who is Chair of the Juvenile Justice and Child Welfare Committee of the National Association of Women Judges (NAWJ) and a member of the Curriculum Committee of the National Council for Juvenile and Family Court Judges, made a presentation on “A Systemic Change in the Application of the Families In Need of Services Laws (Status Offenses) through Evidence and Trust-based Early Intervention: A Community Model of Effective Collaboration amongst Schools, Courts, and Healthcare.” “It was quite a humbling and thought-provoking experience,” Judge Lobrano noted. “Judges from diverse backgrounds shared information and best practices, gaining new insights into initiatives that serve justice, the common good, and, especially, our most vulnerable populations.”
Family Court Judge D’Souza, who serves as President-Elect of the NAWJ, made a presentation on “Equal Access to Justice: The Importance of Civil Legal Aid and Delivery of Justice to Eradicate Poverty.” “As a former legal aid lawyer representing the poor of our city, I was truly humbled and privileged to have been bestowed with the honor to participate,” Judge D’Souza said. “I obtained much knowledge on the different issues facing the justice systems in the three Americas and left optimistic that we share the same focus on justice, values, and the importance of the dignity and fair treatment of every human being.”
During the summit, Pope Francis addressed the 75 judges (12 from United States and the remainder from Central and North America) explaining that “Esteemed magistrates, you have an essential role. Your noble and onerous mission requires devoting yourselves to the service of justice and the common good with the constant calling to ensure that the rights of the people, especially those of the most vulnerable, be respected and guaranteed. In this way, you help guarantee that states do not relinquish their most sublime and primary function: to assume responsibility for the common good of their people.”
Various judges from Central and South America informed the conference of the public corruption and special interest coercion that have placed some judges in danger and jeopardized the integrity of the judiciary. Pope Francis encouraged them to remain strong noting that you “will clash against not only an unjust system, but also a mighty communications system of powers that will often distort the scope of your decisions, cast doubt on your honesty and also on your rectitude. They can even put you on trial. It is an asymmetrical and erosive battle in which, in order to win, you must maintain strength . . . How often judges — both men and women — have to face in isolation walls of defamation and dishonor, if not slander!"
Pope Francis presented a special document on the importance of the summit's theme asking judges of the Americas “to assume the role that the present time demands of us, coordinating efforts, designing strategies and ratifying on a daily basis our commitment to human dignity, global peace, and the realization of human rights in all dimensions.” Pope Francis also established the “Permanent Pan American Board of Judges in Defense of Social Rights.” The board may, in the future, coordinate efforts in the region to optimize judicial policies centered on the full respect of social, economic and cultural justice, promoting training, courses, and committees to defend judges who are under pressure. Pope Francis noted, "Such measures will allow us to establish a culture of encounter because we do not love concepts or ideas.... Commitment, true commitment, is born of the love of men and women, of children and the elderly, of peoples and communities … of names and faces which fill our hearts.”
The academic papers submitted by Judge D'Souza and Judge Lobrano along with the documents of the other judges who also made presentations will be published by the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences as a special edition and distributed globally, serving as a theoretical basis for a future world meeting of Judges on Social Justice and the Franciscan Doctrine.
At the end of the summit, each judge met privately with Pope Francis for further reflection and special papal blessings.