Spring, with its dramatically changing weather, is a little like our jobs. We never know when our days will be blustery, breezy, cold, or warm. Our work is never boring and, sometimes, I wish that it was not quite so unpredictable and challenging. That said, individually and jointly through COSCA, we thrive on continually looking for ways to solve problems and make our systems better. Good examples of this are the efforts related to court fines, fees, and bail practices and to community engagement in state courts that have risen to the forefront recently.
Fines, Fees, & Bail Practices
The National Task Force on Fines, Fees, and Bail Practices Advisory Committee held its first meeting in Washington, D.C. in mid-March. The advisory committee, co-chaired by Laurie Dudgeon (Kentucky) and Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor (Ohio), discussed its mission and work plan. Introductory meetings of the advisory committee’s working groups were also held:
Access to Justice and Fairness Working Group, co-chaired by Artie Pepin (New Mexico) and Chief Justice Stuart Rabner (New Jersey), which will explore indigency standards following Bearden v. Georgia; standards for pretrial release options and alternatives for financial and nonfinancial conditions of release; potential technological solutions; and issues related to private probation services.
Transparency, Governance, and Structural Reform Working Group, co-chaired by Martin Hoshino (California) and Chief Justice Nathan Hecht (Texas), which will review legal authority for establishing and supervising local courts and consider financial standards for reporting court revenue; processes for setting fines, fees, and assessments; and model statutes/rules related to fee schedules and possible sanctions.
Accountability, Judicial Performance, and Qualifications Working Group, co-chaired by Rosalyn Frierson (South Carolina) and Chief Justice Patricia Breckenridge (Missouri), which will consider guidelines for selection, tenure, oversight, and discipline of all levels of court judges; ethical issues related to part-time judicial officers; and mandatory and educational requirements.
Best Practices, Tools, and Clearinghouse Working Group, led by Laurie Dudgeon and Scott Griffith (National Association for Court Management), which is tasked with identifying best practices and tools for establishing and processing court-imposed financial sanctions and making those resources accessible.
With support from the National Center for State Courts and funding from the State Justice Institute, the National Task Force and its working groups have an aggressive agenda ahead. We can look forward to an update on their work at the COSCA/CCJ 2016 summer meeting.
Community Engagement & Fairness
Following its first meeting in October 2015, the Advisory Board of the Community Engagement in the State Courts Initiative established its mission statement: “To develop effective tools and resources that assist state court leaders in engaging marginalized and disenfranchised communities to ensure equal access to justice for all, and to improve the trust and confidence those communities have in state courts to protect their individual rights and liberties and resolve disputes fairly.” The chair of the initiative, Chief Judge Eric Washington (District of Columbia), has participated in a number of roundtable discussions and symposiums on racial equity and local government/justice systems. The initiative is beginning its next steps—undertaking a “listening tour” through virtual national town halls, working with state pilot sites to test a range of minority community engagement strategies, and exploring other communication strategies.
Delaware, through its Access to Justice Commission’s Fairness Committee, is focused on how to address racial justice issues. One of the key first steps is getting people from all viewpoints to talk, and listen, to each other in a meaningful way about criminal justice issues. On March 24, 2016, a Social Justice Panel, including Delaware Supreme Court Chief Justice Leo E. Strine, Jr., and Delaware community leaders, activists, and a county police chief, discussed how to have a direct and respectful conversation about race and public policy. Chief Justice Strine, in his opening remarks at the panel, offered the following thoughts:
[T]o have the difficult conversations that need to be had about how to move forward, and to work together to make things better . . . we have to be able to have a real conversation about the subject of race. A conversation, if it is to be true to the word, is not one-sided. Many people who say they want to have society address an issue mean this: they want society to tie down to a seat those who disagree with them and have them listen to a lecture. That is not a conversation. A conversation that is socially useful is when people of good faith cool their heads and warm their hearts and try to understand the other perspective. A conversation that is socially useful is one that involves acknowledging that all of us can do better, and seeing if—by the difficult effort of close listening, coming to grips with realities that create weaknesses in our own position, and engaging in an honest give and take—we can make progress and create common ground on which to build a strong foundation for serious improvement in equality.
His thoughts offer a good starting place for resolving conflict in emotionally charged situations, including those that we often find ourselves involved in. At the COSCA Board meeting a few weeks ago, a wise colleague, Sally Holewa (North Dakota), shared that she starts each day asking for the wisdom and strength to keep her “ego” out of the decisions she makes that day. So, I close with the hope that we, as the wind gusts threaten to move us off course each day, can focus on listening fully to understand the true reality of a situation—and that we can keep our egos out of it. Those are high standards to meet. Enjoy the rest of the spring!
CCJ/COSCA Task Force Releases Pandemic Response Guide
A guide on how courts can prepare for pandemic emergencies has been produced by a task force created by the Conference of Chief Justices. Preparing for a Pandemic. An Emergency Response Benchbook and Operational Guidebook for State Court Judges and Administrators,was created in response to the Ebola scare in 2014 and in preparation for any future pandemic emergencies, such as the current zika virus spread by mosquitos. The guide serves as a model each state can use to develop their own pandemic benchbook. COSCA partnered in the task force, and the guide also helps court administrators with pandemic preparedness, including court operations issues and training. Task force members participated in a webinar to launch the guide on March 16.
New Joint Technology Committee Papers Guide Courts with Tech Advancements
NCSC’s Joint Technology Committee has released three papers to educate and train court leaders in technology. “Responding to a Cyberattack” provides a basic explanation of the preparations necessary for court managers to respond quickly and effectively in the event of a cybersecurity incident. “Implementing Judicial Tools” explains technology options and implementation considerations for courts planning a judicial tools initiative. “Managing Digital Evidence in Courts” identifies potential challenges and recommends steps courts should consider when receiving, evaluating, protecting, and presenting digital evidence, including video from body-worn cameras, private citizens, and other sources.
Member Spotlight: James Glessner, Maine
Why and how did you become a state court administrator?
After serving for more than ten years as the statewide administrator of the Family Court of the State of Delaware, my chief retired, and I began to look for other opportunities. Having worked in education and juvenile corrections, my experience in court administration taught me that this was the field that offered a great opportunity to build on my experience to date. Through the National Center’s website I learned of two openings for state court administrator positions, and was able to interview for both. The first time that I ever stepped foot in the State of Maine was on the day of my first interview. It was a very inclusive process in which I met many judges, staff members, and attorneys and visited numerous court locations. The realization of what would be involved in this position was both daunting and exciting. Fortunately for me, I was selected and have been in this position for more than 23 years.
What do you like most and least about being a state court administrator?
I enjoy problem solving, and this position provides an endless supply of opportunities to solve problems. During my tenure in Maine, there have only been two chief justices. That continuity in leadership has served us well for long-term planning, and has given me the satisfaction of seeing many of those plans come to fruition. Working with dedicated and talented people on a wide variety of issues is truly rewarding.
What I like least is causing delay when it’s not possible to accomplish everything that needs to be done. In spite of planning, organizing, and delegating, it is often a matter of prioritizing to determine what will be accomplished. On balance, the positive aspects of this position far outweighed the negative.
Tell us about your family.
My wife, Jeanne, and I have been married since 1972. We have three children and six grandchildren. Fortunately, over the years, our children and their families have found their way to New England so we are able to spend time with them with some frequency both here in Maine and in the Boston area. My siblings live in Florida, Texas, and Delaware, and opportunities to see them are far more limited.
What is your philosophy about using social networking? If you use social networking, which sites do you prefer, Facebook, Linked In, Twitter, or others?
One of the challenges in our positions is to ensure that we communicate effectively. Social media has proven that there is a real desire to have information readily available. It has had a big influence on the way we are doing business in the courts. In my personal life, I have had little involvement with social media. When family members want to share photos, they have to send them as an email enclosure.
If you didn’t have to work for a living, what would you do?
The question sounds a little less hypothetical realizing that retirement is somewhere in the foreseeable future. My thoughts turn to increased family time, outdoor activities, and visiting the fiction section at the library. There will always be the need for intellectual stimulation, and finding other ways to have the kinds of interpersonal interactions that come naturally as a result of my work. I’ll report back when I know the answer.
Anniversaries . . .
COSCA congratulates the following members for achieving anniversaries in office in April and May: Lilia Judson of Indiana (18 years); David Boyd of Iowa (13 years); Joe Baxter of Rhode Island (12 years); Laurie Dudgeon of Kentucky (7 years); Kevin Lackey of Mississippi (6 years); David Slayton of Texas (4 years); and Corey Steel of Nebraska (2 years).
. . . and Birthdays
Fourteen COSCA members celebrate their birthdays in April and May. Happy Birthday to Sally Holewa of North Dakota (April 8); Joe Baxter of Rhode Island (April 9); Pat Gabel of Vermont (April 11); Sandra Vujnovich of Louisiana (April 15); Dan Becker of Utah (April 19); Anne Wicks of the District of Columbia (April 21); Mike Buenger of Ohio and Pat Carroll of Connecticut (April 23); Don Goodnow of New Hampshire (April 26); Jari Askins of Oklahoma (April 27); Regina Petersen of the Virgin Islands (May 20); Kingsley Click of Oregon (May 26); Kathy Lloyd of Missouri (May 27); and Laurie Dudgeon of Kentucky (May 31).