Silver Linings of the Pandemic
by The Hon. Gregory K. Orme
Let me get this out of the way right off the bat: The COVID-19 pandemic has been a horrible scourge on the world, and we would have all been much better off without it. As dark clouds go, this is the darkest most of us have known. But always something of an optimist, I recognize the validity of the old adage that every cloud has a silver lining.
I don’t intend to treat the ancillary benefits of the pandemic that apply more generally. These are familiar to all of us by now. Wearing masks out in public has become acceptable as a public health tool. Even post-pandemic, it is to be hoped that people who do not feel well, or who are coming off a cold, etc., will thoughtfully don a mask when going to the store or getting on an airplane. Many families benefited considerably from the bonding opportunities presented by spending so much time at home together. (But not all. Domestic violence and child sexual abuse cases were up in many places.) Pet adoptions from shelters increased significantly, at least for a while. Many parents and guardians, some of whom had not been involved in their children’s education beyond inquiring, “Have you done all your homework?,” at some point in the evening, came to have a deep appreciation for educators after being required to take a much more active, daily role in helping to manage online education. Families, like mine, who are dispersed all around the country came to learn about Zoom and similar technologies, and the opportunities they afford to stay in better touch than via group texting. I suspect my extended family, even after the pandemic is behind us, will continue our Monday night Zoom get-together. My sainted mother certainly hopes that will be the case, as do I.
In this essay, I want to identify the silver linings that are somewhat unique to our profession. I recently participated in the annual conference of the Council of Chief Judges of the State Courts of Appeal – via Zoom, of course – and I can say with some confidence that, in varying degrees, these silver linings have national relevance. And I hasten to add that appellate judges universally recognize how much easier it is to hoe our row as compared to the much more significant challenges faced by our colleagues on the trial bench. Reading briefs and getting a couple of lawyers together for fifteen-minute arguments is a thousand times easier than managing a busy trial docket and trying to hear from witnesses and empanel juries. (That may sound like hyperbole, but I did the math.) So please...