Alum named president of The National Judicial College

Written by Karen L. Bystrom
April 20, 2017

Captain Benes Z. Aldana, ’91, BA Political Science (cum laude), chief trial judge of the U.S. Coast Guard, has been selected as president of the National Judicial College, leading the nation’s most influential institute for the continuing education of judges.


In the announcement of his selection, Captain Aldana said, “With current attacks on the rule of law and on the independence of the judiciary, I cannot think of a better calling than to devote my time and energy to ensure that the guardians of our rule of law are taught not only the knowledge and skills to effectively carry out their judicial duties, but to instill in them the courage to make difficult decisions.”

Captain Aldana was the first Asian Pacific (Filipino) American chief trial judge in U.S. military history. As the ninth overall president or chief executive officer of the NJC, he will be the second person of color and the first military judge to lead the College.

He has served as president of the Asian Bar Association of Washington and was a co-founding board member of the Filipino Lawyers of Washington. He was also chair-elect of the Washington State Bar Legal Assistance to Military Personnel Section, and he was the Washington State Supreme Court’s appointee to the Civil Legal Aid Oversight Committee. 

More from the formal announcement:

Mark Tratos, chair of the Board of Trustees’ Search and Transition Committee, said: "We were keenly aware of the increased public scrutiny the American judiciary faces in these politically turbulent times. The College’s mission—to advance justice for all citizens through well-prepared, highly skilled and well-trained judges— is more critical than ever. Judge Aldana's strong connections to both the military justice system and the larger bench and bar, through his work in the ABA, makes him a perfect fit.”

“He is one of the most respected individuals that I know. He is a go-to guy. If there is a tough job, Benes is the person to do it. Everything he does is done with excellence, integrity and vision. He is committed to judicial education and I think he is aware of issues facing all judges. I hold him in very high regard.” Judge Bernice Donald, United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, Memphis, Tennessee

“Captain Aldana is widely respected by people from all walks of life, and through his substantial and lasting accomplishments he has served as a role model and inspiration to the judicial and legal communities. He is a visionary who will lead The National Judicial College to its next level of growth as an exceptional learning institution for judges throughout the country and the world.” Judge Eileen Kato (ret.), King County District Court, Seattle, Washington

Read more on the National Judicial College website.