Feb 2016

     February 2016

A Message from the President

Pat Griffin

This is yet another installment from me as COSCA president—I am sure that you have been waiting with bated breath at your computer for my new missive in the COSCA Bulletin.  Much work has been ongoing since I last wrote in December.  In particular, the work of the National Task Force on Fines, Fees and Bail Practices is getting underway.  The task force is co-chaired by Laurie Dudgeon (Kentucky) and Chief Justice O’Connor (Ohio), and will include Artie Pepin (New Mexico), Rosalyn Frierson (South Carolina), and Martin Hoshino (California) from COSCA, and Chief Justices Breckenridge (Missouri), Hecht (Texas), and Rabner (New Jersey).  The task force is forming three working groups (on access to justice/fairness; transparency, governance, and structural reform; accountability, judicial performance and qualifications, and oversight) to help address the multitude of issues around the policies, procedures, and practices for setting, collecting, and waiving court-imposed payments, and the qualification and oversight of judges in locally created courts, as well as potential technological solutions and best practices related to these issues.  The task force has an aggressive agenda ahead of it.  I wanted to express my appreciation, in advance, to our colleagues who will help lead this initiative. 

I recently returned from participating in the Conference of Chief Justices midyear meeting in California and wanted to highlight a few things from that meeting.  First, the 2014-2015 COSCA Policy Paper “Problem-Solving Courts in the 21st Century” was endorsed by CCJ—thanks to the great work of David Slayton (Texas), who authored the paper, and Artie Pepin (chair) and the other members of the COSCA Policy Committee.  Second, you may remember that, during the COSCA business meeting at the December midyear meeting, we discussed that CCJ had agreed to hire a lobbyist to pursue the long outstanding federal tax-intercept legislation, and there was a request for possible additional funding from other states to support this (beyond Arizona’s generous initial contribution).  During that discussion, there were some concerns expressed by COSCA members, including about the current form of the draft federal legislation (due to recent changes in that legislation) and the timing of this, given the recent initiatives on court fees, fines, and bail issues.  At the CCJ midyear meeting, we learned that the proposed legislation has been further changed to omit outstanding judgments in traffic cases from the types of debts that can be intercepted through this legislation.  It was discussed that eliminating traffic cases would have a significant impact on the practical benefit of the legislation to state courts.  The CCJ Board decided, after expressing appreciation for the goal of getting this legislation passed, not to move forward with hiring a lobbyist at this time. 

Finally, I was fortunate to hear Bryan Stevenson, author of Just Mercy, speak at the Judicial Family Institute’s Law and Literature session at the CCJ midyear meeting.  Bryan is a passionate speaker on justice—and death penalty—issues. (On a side note, Bryan is a native Delawarean and his Equal Justice Initiative has been very helpful with Delaware’s Access to Justice Commission’s focus on fairness in the criminal justice system in Delaware.)  The description of Just Mercy in the Law and Literature program stated:  “Just Mercy is at once an unforgettable account of an idealistic, gifted young lawyer’s coming of age, a moving window into the lives of those he had defended, and an inspiring argument for compassion in the pursuit of true justice.”  Although it is not always easy for us in the criminal justice system to see this perspective, I recommend that you consider reading Bryan’s book (if you haven’t already).  And I’d like to quote from Just Mercy:

I’ve come to believe that the true measure of our commitment to justice, the character of our society, our commitment to the rule of law, fairness, and equality cannot be measured by how we treat the rich, the powerful, the privileged, and the respected among us.  The true measure of our character is how we treat the poor, the disfavored, the accused, the incarcerated, and the condemned. Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy (New York: Spiegel and Grau, 2014), p. 18.   

A critical aspect of each of our jobs is how to make improvements in the courts and the justice system.  For me, Bryan’s statement helps me keep grounded in the importance of that work.  Well, until next time . . .   

COSCA Member Appointed Acting Chairman of SJI Board

The State Justice Institute Board of Directors has appointed Vice Chairman Daniel Becker to serve as acting chairman until June 2016. Dan was approached to fill the seat vacated by the late Arkansas Chief Justice Jim Hannah, who was serving as SJI's chair at the time of his death. Dan has served as state court administrator at the Administrative Office of the Courts for the State of Utah since 1995. From 1984 to 1995, he worked for the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts, serving in the positions of deputy director (1993-1995); court services administrator (1986-1993); and assistant to the director (1984-1986). He also held the position of trial court administrator for the Fourteenth Judicial District of North Carolina and assistant director of operations for the Georgia Administrative Office of the Courts. From 2004 to 2005, he served as president of the COSCA and vice chair of the Board of Directors of the National Center for State Courts, who honored him with the 2006 Warren E. Burger Award for Excellence in Judicial Administration. He was initially appointed to the SJI Board of Directors in 2010. He holds a B.A. and M.P.A. from Florida Atlantic University and attended the Executive Session for State Court Leaders in the 21st Century at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.

Body-Worn Cameras Subject of New NCSC Report

Body-Worn Cameras and the Courts discusses the functionality of body-worn cameras and the potential litigation issues expected to arise as the technology is increasingly used by law enforcement.  PDF copies are available for downloading and a limited number of printed copies can be obtained by sending an email to the author at ghurley@ncsc.org. This project was done with the support of the State Justice Institute. NCSC will host a webinar describing the report on Thursday, March 3, 2016, at 2 p.m. EST.  Pre-registration is not required; however, it is suggested that participants login at least five minutes early.  The webinar will be recorded, and the recording will be available the next day.

Member Spotlight:  Lily Sharpe, Wyoming

Why and how did you become a state court administrator?

Before coming to the supreme court, I staffed the legislature’s judiciary committee and worked with the chief justice, the state court administrator and judges on various bills, including streamlining civil procedure and juvenile justice issues. When Joann Odendahl decided to retire, I applied just because it had been so fun working with her and the judiciary on bills that made the courts better for the whole state.

What do you like most and least about being a state court administrator?

Lacking the skill to give a Steve Canterbury answer to this loaded question (“Most: Getting to work with the justices.  Least: Getting to work with the justices.”), I like the most working on projects that make the courts more accessible and friendly.  I like the least the time it takes to answer endless emails.

Tell us about your family.

My husband is a very wonderful, patient man who toils as a district court judge during the day and then listens to the whining of a state court administrator at night.  We have four children, two granddaughters, and a slew of animals that our kids have guiltlessly left with us as they move on in life. Our children and children-in-law include a mathematician/computer scientist, a design engineer, and, hopefully soon, three lawyers and a doctor. We spend just about all of our spare time enjoying them and our extended family throughout all of Wyoming.

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 have a Facebook account that I use solely to spy on my children. Social networking can be used very beneficially, if I just knew how to use it.

If you didn’t have to work for a living, what would you do?

I’d be a better grandma, a better cook, a better neighbor, . . . .

Anniversaries . . .

COSCA congratulates the following members for achieving anniversaries in office in February and March: Anne Wicks of the District of Columbia and Jerry Marroney of Colorado (16 years); Pat Griffin of Delaware (11 years); Nancy Dixon of Kansas (5 years); and Sandra Vujnovich of Louisiana (2 years).

. . . and Birthdays

Two COSCA members celebrate their birthdays in February and March. Happy Birthday to Jerry Marroney of Colorado (February 20) and Lawrence Marks of New York (March 21).