COSCA Bulletin: November 2021

A Message from the President:
sHORBAThe Evolving Role of the State Court Administrator
Jeff Shorba

Indra Nooyi, who served as the CEO and chairperson of PepsiCo for more than a decade, once offered these words of advice to new executives: “Just because you are CEO, don't think you have landed. You must continually increase your learning, the way you think, and the way you approach the organization.”

Nooyi—who led her company through times of great change and dramatic shifts in consumer expectations—recognized that executives, like the organizations they head, need to continuously evolve to meet changes in their business, customers, and priorities. Adaptability and flexibility have become essential qualities of great leaders, as the pace of change in technology and customer needs seems to rise exponentially each year.

As court administration leaders, we know a thing or two about adaptability and flexibility. In my nine years as Minnesota’s state court administrator, I have seen my work and my role in our state’s courts evolve in ways I could never have envisioned.

During Minnesota’s eCourtMN transformation—our transition to an all-electronic case record—I felt more like the manager of a midsize IT company than a court administrator.

When our courts were hit by a large-scale cyber attack, I had to become a cyber security expert overnight, learning acronyms like DDoS, UDP, TCP, MFA, and VPN.

During the throes of the pandemic, I felt like a public health official, helping set new policies and procedures designed to reduce viral spread in our courthouses and offices.

With the current job market recovery, I’m spending my days as an HR consultant, trying to figure out how to hire and retain a world-class workforce while balancing new expectations around remote and hybrid work opportunities.

In talking to my peers across the country, I know my experience is not unique. In fact, I think it's pretty clear that this era of rapid transformation and constantly changing priorities is our "new normal," and that each of us is facing an array of new and evolving demands in our work.

Fortunately, while the issues and tasks we may be working on are constantly shifting, the key traits that make us successful as leaders remain relatively constant. Being flexible and resilient. Surrounding yourself with good people and trusting their expertise and experience. Keeping yourself open to new ideas and being willing to challenge the status quo and entrenched thinking. Communicating through change and offering a positive message that recognizes the contributions of your team. Learning how to identify the issues that require your direct involvement, and how to stay focused on your organizational mission even during times of turbulence and disruption.
The evolving role of the state court administrator presents us a great challenge—and, more importantly, an incredible opportunity. Every day, we have the chance to help reshape our courts to ensure fair and equal access, improve efficiency and the customer experience of court users, and make a real difference in the lives of those we serve.

To succeed, we must constantly be committing ourselves to grow as leaders. To paraphrase Ms. Nooyi, just because we are state court administrators, we can’t simply think we’ve “landed.” The challenge—and joy—of this job is the ability to learn and adapt. By doing so, we not only help our organizations overcome the obstacles and changes thrown our way, but we help build a better, stronger, more prosperous future for our courts and our justice system.

Join Us in Arizona for COSCA's Midyear Meeting

The 2021 COSCA Midyear Meeting will be held December 2-4, at the Marriott Phoenix Resort Tempe at the Buttes, in Tempe, Arizona. This year’s education topics include “Oh No! This Time They Attacked Your Court. Now What?,” “Crisis Communication Skills for Court Leadership,” “Improving State Court Responses to Individuals with Mental Illness,” and “Breaking Barriers.”

Please note that COSCA’s new members will be invited to an all-day orientation on Wednesday, December 1—more information will follow.

The room rate at the Marriott is $184.00 single/double plus 14.09% tax per day. Please make your hotel reservation no later than November 8, 2021. After the 8th, the room rate and availability are not guaranteed.

Marriott Phoenix Resort Tempe at the Buttes is located three miles from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, with the Phoenix Zoo, Arizona State University, and Scottsdale all within easy reach. You can break a sweat in the fitness center, and on the tennis or volleyball courts, or enjoy the trails surrounding the hotel when you’re not in sessions. The hotel also has a full-service spa (depending on COVID restrictions) and several dining options with amazing views of Tempe.

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport is your destination airport. The hotel does not offer free airport shuttle service. For roundtrip travel between the airport and hotel, options include Uber/Lyft, various commercial shuttle services, or a rental car. Estimated taxi fare is $16.00 (one way). Valet and on-site parking are available at the hotel for $15.00 per day.

Register today! We are excited to be in person together. See you soon!

If you have any questions or need additional information, please don’t hesitate to contact Sirena Kestner.

Keep Up to Date with NCSC’s Events Calendar

Face-to-face meetings are coming back, and the number of virtual events continues to grow. Keep up on upcoming webinars, national association meetings, Institute for Court Management courses, and more via the National Center for State Courts’ online Events Calendar.

COSCA Member Spotlight: Stephanie Bunten, KansasBunten

Why and how did you become a state court administrator?
I started with the Kansas judicial branch right out of law school as a research attorney for a court of appeals judge. It was a wonderful experience, and I had an amazing boss.

I moved to the Office of Judicial Administration (our AOC) as assistant budget and fiscal officer. I then left the branch for a short period, joining the accounting firm Mize CPAs (formerly Mize Houser), eventually earning my CPA license. I gained invaluable experience and I worked with people who took time to teach me about financial operations, as well as about business operations and management. I am grateful for that experience and remain in contact with my former colleagues, who still help me brainstorm solutions to issues.

I moved back to the Office of Judicial Administration in 2015 as chief financial officer and fell in love with the job. Our judicial administrator at the time, Nancy Dixon, allowed me to take on additional responsibilities outside the financial department, and my understanding of district and appellate court operations grew as a result. When she retired earlier this year, I was honored to be chosen as the next judicial administrator.

I am fortunate to work with our supreme court justices, district court and appellate court judges, members of our various boards and committees, and employees of the judicial branch. Our team includes the smartest, most caring individuals I have ever worked with. I count them among my best friends, and I marvel at their dedication to the court system.

What do you like most and least about being a state court administrator?
I like making a difference in how we deliver access to justice. That includes modernizing the Kansas court system, finding software and remote technology solutions to improve the overall court experience and deliver it more efficiently, and helping our team find fulfillment in their careers.

My least favorite thing in past years has been limited resources and funding. However, the Kansas legislature recently appropriated much-needed additional funding to the judicial branch, and it allows us to address critical needs and advance important projects.

Tell us about your family.
I have three beautiful daughters who are 23, 18, and 13. My favorite thing to do is spend time with them and watch them grow into amazing women.

My father was a Lutheran minister, and my mother was a high school teacher. Growing up, my sister and I never got away with anything without our parents knowing—because they were at school and church. They have both passed away. My sister is my only sibling, and she lives in California. She is one of my best friends.

I hit the jackpot with my in-laws. My father-in-law was a seasoned politician who was an ardent supporter and advocate for our community. He passed away last year. My mother-in-law helped raise my daughters, and my sister-in-law is a dear friend. We are all very close. I also have wonderful friends who are my extended family.

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 love social networking and feel it offers an efficient way to provide valuable (and sometimes humorous) information to a wide audience. For the judicial branch, it is a valuable tool to educate the public about our mission and current projects, to recruit team members, and to stay connected with attorneys across the state. There is not one site I prefer because each offers different benefits. I currently use Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and TikTok. My daughters won’t let me use Snapchat.

If you didn’t have to work for a living, what would you do?
I truly enjoy my position with the Kansas judicial branch, so I would want to maintain some connection with what I currently do. I would travel more with friends and family—in the United States and internationally. I also would love to live in New York City.

Anniversaries . . .

COSCA congratulates the following members for achieving anniversaries in office in March through November: Dave Byers of Arizona (19 years); Karl Hade of Virginia and Sally A. Holewa of North Dakota (16 years); Arthur W. Pepin of New Mexico (15 years); Glenn A. Grant of New Jersey (13 years); Laurie Dudgeon of Kentucky (12 years); Beth McLaughlin of Montana (10 years); Jeff Shorba of Minnesota (9 years); Patrick L. Carroll III of Connecticut, Patricia Gabel of Vermont, Pamela Harris of Maryland, Regina deChabert Petersen of the Virgin Islands, and Greg Sattizahn of South Dakota (8 years); Martin Hoshino of California, Corey R. Steel of Nebraska, and Sandra A. Vujnovich of Louisiana (7 years); Jari Askins of Oklahoma, Cynthia Hinrichs Clanton of Georgia, Lawrence K. Marks of New York, and Marty E. Sullivan of Arkansas (6 years); Sigfrido Steidel Figueroa of Puerto Rico and Sara B. Omundson of Idaho (5 years); Tonnya K. Kohn of South Carolina, Randy R. Koschnick of Wisconsin, and Marica M. Meis of Illinois (4 years); Justin P. Forkner of Indiana (3 years); Stacey Marz of Alaska and Steven Vasconcellos of Colorado (2 years); and Thomas P. Boyd of Michigan (1 year).

. . . and Birthdays

Thirty-one COSCA members celebrate birthdays from March through November. Happy Birthday to Gayle P. Lafferty of Delaware (April 3); Sally Holewa of North Dakota (April 8); Patricia Gabel of Vermont (April 11); Sandra A. Vujnovich of Louisiana (April 15); Patrick L. Carroll III of Connecticut (April 23); Jari Askins of Oklahoma (April 27); Andrew T. Heath of North Carolina (May 9); Regina deChabert Petersen of the Virgin Islands (May 20); Kathy S. Lloyd of Missouri (May 27); Laurie K. Dudgeon of Kentucky (May 31); Corey R. Steel of Nebraska (June 14); David K. Byers of Arizona (July 7); Karl R. Hade of Virginia (July 8); Dawn Marie Rubio of Washington (July 11); Tonnya K. Kohn of South Carolina (July 20); Ronald Gordon of Utah (July 28); Deborah Taylor Tate of Tennessee and Cheryl Bailey of the District of Columbia (July 30); Cynthia Hinrichs Clanton of Georgia (August 3); Marty E. Sullivan of Arkansas and Thomas P. Boyd of Michigan (August 29); Stephanie Elliott Hess of Ohio (September 5); Nancy J. Cozine of Oregon (September 13); Jeff Shorba of Minnesota (September 17); Kristina L. Baird of Guam (September 19); Rodney A. Maile of Hawaii (October 10); Marcia M. Meis of Illinois (October 17); Sara B. Omundson of Idaho (October 28); Rich Hobson of Alabama (November 10); and Steven Vasconcellos of Colorado (November 27).