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D.C. Superior Court Judge Lee Satterfield is exhausted. Since becoming presiding judge of the Family Court just more than a year ago, he has handled one enormous challenge after another as he manages a complete overhaul of his division. His days are spent jumping from one meeting to the next to discuss a variety of issues that nearly all have one theme in common: making sure the court is in compliance with the D.C. Family Court Act of 2001. All the while, Satterfield has continued to hear cases. Over the past year, with Satterfield at the helm, the Family Court has seen: • the creation of a three-volume plan to Congress on how the D.C. Family Court Act of 2001 would be implemented, followed six months later with an update; • a dozen judges volunteer for three years of service in Family Court; • nine magistrate judges hired and trained to handle child abuse and neglect cases; • 1,500 abuse and neglect cases, which had been dispersed among the entire local bench, transferred to the Family Court, with another 1,200 expected to be moved by the end of January; • uniform court orders created for use in all abuse and neglect cases; • training programs developed for judges and practitioners; and • a committee set up to develop lists of qualified court-appointed lawyers for Family Court. “It’s been tiring,” Satterfield says. “I’m tired. But I’m energized by the enthusiasm from outside stakeholders and the judges who are involved.” While the court has been criticized for waiting for Congress to intervene before making serious efforts to reform the Family Division, Satterfield and his team get high marks when it comes to implementing the law. “The law set a huge list of things in front of them,” says Priscilla Skillman, assistant director at the Council for Court Excellence. “They’ve been chipping away at them very aggressively and very soundly.” D.C. Superior Court Chief Judge Rufus King III selected Satterfield to replace Judge Reggie Walton, who was appointed to the federal trial bench, to run the division in November 2001. At the time, the House and Senate had already begun debating legislation aimed at changing the way child abuse and neglect cases were handled by the court. King says he is satisfied with his choice. “You couldn’t ask for a better leader,” says the chief judge, pointing out that every reporting requirement and deadline thus far has been met. Satterfield, 44, a former homicide prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, was appointed to the bench in 1992 by President George Bush. He has presided over the court’s domestic violence calendar and is regarded as smart and well-liked by colleagues. He also was one of seven candidates who ran for chief judge in 2000. Satterfield gives a lot of credit to King and Judge Anita Josey-Herring, deputy presiding judge of Family Court. He also says the law has sparked an enormous amount of interest from the bar. In particular, Satterfield says he was surprised to see more than 300 people attend a training conference last month. And the job is far from over. The first phase of setting up a physical space in the H. Carl Moultrie I Courthouse for Family Court is about to begin. Early in 2003, Landlord and Tenant Court is scheduled to move to a separate building to make space for Family Court. Small Claims Court will eventually be moved as well. Meanwhile, family judges will continue to be spread out among the courthouse with some magistrates hearing matters in nearby buildings. In addition, a new information-sharing computer system is scheduled to be installed by next fall.

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