In "Civil Litigation, Conversations with the Bench", Marla M. Izbicky interviews Hon. Judge Diane M. Shelley to pick her brain for advice and insight, as well as discuss what impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the courts and litigation. Below are a few questions from the article by the Women's Bar Association of Illinois. Marla's questions are in bold.
How do you think the transition back to more in person court appearances is going to look?
I don’t believe that our court system will ever look the same. A lot of the in-court appearances will probably continue to be virtual. I’ve also adjusted to the receipt of documents electronically and I don’t see the urgency for paper documents anymore. I think we can probably proceed to save some trees.
Do you have any advice for young female litigants in terms of how to stand out and speak up in the courtroom?
My two best suggestions are be prepared and don’t shy away from asking the court to intervene. With preparation comes a certain confidence, and with that confidence, you’re not intimidated by that noise of other counsel. I discourage direct confrontation but I encourage asking the court for assistance because that is our role. If you find yourself in a situation where you think you are being disrespected or being addressed inappropriately, then you turn to the court and say, “Judge, I need your assistance here, I feel I cannot get in a word.” It’s not a sign of weakness to ask the court for assistance - you have to speak up.
How has your experience as a female judge of color impacted your outlook on both the law and your work on the bench?
I think I bring a certain empathy to the bench, and I am very proud of that. Being empathetic means that I listen very closely. I want to hear the full story - I don’t want to jump to conclusions and I don’t want to stereotype anyone. I want to be as objective as I possibly can. I think that is the advantage of being a person of color and a woman. It doesn’t mean that we don’t make hard decisions, but it means we tend to be more objective.