COSCA Bulletin - October 2013


     October 2013

A Message from the President

Zig Pines

The music may have stopped, but the melody still lingers on.

The annual CCJ/COSCA conference in beautiful Burlington was a fabulous event. Chief Justice Reiber and Bob ("Greeny") Greemore were gracious hosts. The theme of collaborative justice and inter-branch relations provided many opportunities for thoughtful presentations and exchanges.

For me, there was one comment that has echoed during the past few months. Some of you may recall the dialogue between Harvard Professor David Barron and Chief Justice Jean Toal. In response to one of Professor Barron's questions, Chief Justice Toal paused, smiled, and in her charming southern drawl responded: "Well, Professor, you see it's complicated."

The challenge of complexitythat's what our courts face on a daily basis. Keeping up with and maximizing technological resources to gather useful data. Providing meaningful access to justice for those with limited-English proficiency. Fostering  positive working relationships with the other branches of government and those who are vital to our operations, such as court clerks. Identifying priorities and allocating our limited financial resources in an effective and efficient manner to address serious societal needs.

The challenges we face are indeed complicated. But our conferences enable us to learn so that we can understand the issues and tackle the problems. Our upcoming midyear program in Naples, Florida, for example, will cover topics of importance to all of us: evidence-based sentencing, cyber security, the impact of social media on jurors and witnesses, and human trafficking.

I hope that you will be able to join us for the midyear conference. Seeing all of you there and enjoying your companynow, that's not complicated.

Michigan Names New State Court Administrator

Judge John A Hohman, Jr., a 16-year veteran of the Monroe Court Probate and Family Court, was named the new state court administrator of Michigan.  He succeeds Chad Schmucker, who is stepping down to become president of the National Judicial College in Reno, Nevada.

Hohman, who has been a judge since 1997, is noted for his work in juvenile justice and child welfare.  He cofounded Monroe County’s Court Appointed Special Advocates program with Monroe Probate Judge Pamela A. Moskwa (ret.); redesigned Monroe County’s juvenile programs and family court; created a juvenile drug court; and helped found “Project Second Chance,” in which young offenders train and care for dogs from the Monroe Humane Society, which teaches juveniles empathy and responsibility and improves dogs’ chances for adoption.

In 2013, he was named “Michigan Jurist of the Year” by the Michigan Foster Care Review Board and was chosen “Michigan Judge of the Year” in 2008 by the Michigan Association of Court Appointed Special Advocates.

Hohman earned a Bachelor of Science Degree from Central Michigan University and a law degree from Wayne State University Law School. He was in the private practice of law for 16 years before becoming a judge.

South Carolina Attorney honored with NCSC’s 2013 John H. Pickering Award

South Carolina attorney Edward W. Mullins Jr. has been named recipient of the 2013 John H. Pickering Award by the National Center for State Courts (NCSC). The award was established in 2005 to recognize a member of the NCSC’s Lawyers Committee who has professionally and personally contributed to NCSC in a significant way. Mullins is a partner with Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP law firm in Charleston, South Carolina. As a member of the NCSC Lawyers Committee, Mullins identified civics education as a long-term project, which has involved lawyers around the country to help advance civics education in the schools and for adults. In South Carolina, Mullins worked tirelessly to introduce the NCSC’s Justice Case Files graphic novels series into middle and high schools. South Carolina Chief Justice Jean H. Toal said Mullins stands for everything “good and decent” about lawyers. “His infectious enthusiasm for involving lawyers across the country in grass roots civics education has been transformational,” she said. 


NCSC Publishes Trends Articles Online 

The National Center for State Courts publishes a new article at the beginning of each month as part of the Trends in State Courts Web site. For 25 years, this annual publication has involved programs and projects of interest to the court community that can help to improve public trust and confidence in the judicial system.  These articles are accompanied by videos in which the authors or other experts expand upon the topic being discussed.

Three articles have been posted since August 2013:

New Handbook Offers Strategies for Restoring Court Funding” (August) discusses how courts can make the best case for court funding during periods of austerity by showing how funding cuts affect the lives of people, not just court operations.

Improving Access to Justice for Self-Represented Litigants” (September) introduces the Center on Court Access to Justice for All, which is dedicated to helping courts to ensure that self-represented litigants get the information and assistance they need.

A Map of the History of Texas:  Supreme Court Task Force Works to Preserve Historical Court Records” (October) was originally published in the Texas Bar Journal and shows what the state is doing to preserve court records and the stories they tell about everyday life in Texas.

The next article, which will be posted on November 1, 2013, discusses how “The Role of the Judge” is changing and what attributes judges will need outside of our “traditional” adversary system of justice.

3rd-5th Graders Wanted for Civics Education Essay Contest

The National Center for State Courts is looking for 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders to participate in this year’s civics education essay contest.  Students are encouraged to answer this year’s question—“What is civics education and why is it important?”—in 100 words or less.  Entries can be hand-written or typed. The first-place winner will receive a $100 Amazon gift card and copies of NCSC’s graphic novel Justice Case Files:  The Case of the Broken Controller for his or her grade.  The winning entry will also be featured in future NCSC publications.  Essays are due by February 15, 2015. 


COSCA Member Spotlight:  Jeff Shorba, Minnesota

Why and how did you become a state court administrator?
I joined the Minnesota Judicial Branch in the newly created position of deputy state court administrator on July 1, 2002.  This position was created as our office was preparing for the advent of state funding of the court system.  Prior to my work with the court system I held legal counsel and management positions with both the Minnesota and federal prison systems.  In 2012, with the retirement of our long-serving state court administrator, I was chosen to succeed her in the position.

What do you like most and least about being a state court administrator?
The best part of being the Minnesota state court administrator is the opportunity to work with a variety of people inside and outside the courts. We have very talented judges and staff in the branch, who are always willing to take on new challenges and opportunities to help the branch improve its operations.  The job is never dull and each day brings new issues, which need to be addressed.  The job also lets me use both my legal and management skills in one place.

Tell us about your family.
My partner and I live in south Minneapolis near a large chain of city lakes.  It is a great spot for walking, biking, etc. We also spend a great deal of time at our lake cabin.

What is your philosophy about using social networking? If you use social networking, which sites do you prefer, Facebook, Linked In, Twitter, or others?
I guess you could call me a social network observer.  I have a number of friends on Facebook, where I can monitor happenings but I rarely post things.  I may need to become more active on these sites as they are relied on as the sole means of communication.

If you didn’t have to work for a living, what would you do?
I would hang out during the summers at my cabin in northwest Wisconsin enjoying the lake.  I would head to a warmer climate for the winter months and travel to other destinations in between.

Anniversaries . . .

COSCA congratulates the following members for achieving anniversaries in office in August and September:  J. D. Gingerich of Arkansas (25 years); Dan Becker of Utah (18 years); Sonia Velez of Puerto Rico (9 years); Artie Pepin of New Mexico and Libby Sykes of Tennessee (7 years); Glenn Grant of New Jersey (5 years); Marla Moore of Georgia and Christine Johnson of Alaska (4 years); and Mike Tardy of Illinois (2 years).

. . . and Birthdays

Eight COSCA members celebrate their birthdays in August and September.  Happy Birthday to Janice Walker of Nebraska (August 1); Davd Slayton of Texas (August 16); J. D. Gingerich of Arkansas and Lisa Goodner of Florida (September 2); Steve Jahr of California (September 16); Robin Sweet of Nevada (September 21); Mike Tardy of Illinois (September 28); and Libby Sykes of Tennessee (September 30).