July 2016

     July 2016

A Message from the President

Pat Griffin

Because I have procrastinated in writing my final COSCA Bulletin article, I am sitting at my computer in my office on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. Needless to say, this article will be SHORT; that is my gift, as the soon-to-be exiting COSCA president, to you. Given that we have just finished what has been a challenging legislative session in Delaware (I expect many of you have faced similar experiences this year, with the revenue issues and the overall “discontent” that seem to continue to plague us), I am all out of inspirational thoughts. At times over the last few weeks it has felt a little like being a “punching doll”—we get knocked down, and we just get back up and keep moving, hopefully forward—but sometimes just moving is enough. The good news is that July 1 has arrived (Delaware’s six-month legislative session ended June 30), and soon we will be traveling to Wyoming for the COSCA/CCJ summer meeting. I am very much looking forward to catching up with COSCA friends and meeting new colleagues next month—COSCA is truly a special group. And this meeting will be wonderful. A large number of COSCA and CCJ family members will be joining the meeting and elevating the fun this summer; Lily Sharpe and Chief Justice Burke and their staff will, no doubt, do a fantastic job, and have planned many exciting activities; and the meeting agenda’s focus on family law and domestic violence issues will showcase how critically important those areas are for state courts. Finally, I suspect that many of us will take advantage of the closeness of the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone to Jackson and do our part to help celebrate the National Parks’ 100th anniversary in those locations. In closing (I kept my promise to keep this brief), I did find some inspirational words; well, they are not mine but are those of Ken Burns, the historical filmmaker, in his Stanford University Commencement Address on June 12, 2016. Among many words of wisdom, Ken Burns told the graduates to “[b]elieve, as Arthur Miller told me in an interview for my very first film on the Brooklyn Bridge, ‘believe, that maybe you too could add something that would last and be beautiful.’” Here’s hoping! See you all soon.

Judicial Town Halls Subject of PBS Series Courting Justice

The first of a series of judicial listening tours aired on many PBS stations as part of the Tavis Smiley Show on Wednesday, June 22, from Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. The series, Courting Justice, is a project of the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) and PBS broadcaster Tavis Smiley to increase public dialogue about perceived racial disparity in the courts and other issues that impact public trust and confidence in the judiciary. Judicial leaders from across the country discussed issues ranging from how racial attitudes toward the courts vary, the public uproar stemming from a recent California sentencing decision, and how the U.S. Supreme Court vacancy created by the death of Antonin Scalia affects the public’s attitude toward the courts. Audience members were drawn from Los Angeles area social-justice, advocacy, faith, and small-business communities. Support for Courting Justice is provided by the State Justice Institute, NCSC, Walmart, the California Endowment, and the Public Welfare Foundation. The next in the series of town-hall meetings will be held September 23, 2016, in Little Rock, Arkansas. More information about Courting Justice is available at ncsc.org/courtingjustice.

Election Law eBenchbook Helps Judges Navigate State Election Controversies

To help state court judges resolve complex election disputes and navigate the country’s election codes, a State Election Law eBenchbook has been developed by the Election Law Program, a joint project of the National Center for State Courts and William & Mary Law School. This eBenchbook was launched June 7 in three states—Virginia, Colorado, and Florida. As the November election season approaches, judges are going to be called upon to interpret state laws and rules quickly under the twin pressures of tight time frames and close public scrutiny. The eBenchbook begins with each state’s code, then includes annotations from state-election-law experts for clarity and context. The eBenchbook links to quick definitions of terms in each state’s election laws; to relevant case law, advisory opinions, and regulations; and to a range of reference sources useful for rapid decision making.

Online Curriculum Helps State Courts with Cases Involving Unaccompanied Immigrant Children

A new online curriculum has been developed to help state courts understand how to process the increasing numbers of unaccompanied immigrant children (UACs) coming into the country. Over the last several years, the number of UACs from Central America has been steadily rising, and this trend is anticipated to lead to an increase in filings in state juvenile courts on behalf of UACs seeking court findings to support applications for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status.  To help state courts handle these complex cases, the State Justice Institute, the National Center for State Courts, and the Center for Public Policy Studies developed the Unaccompanied Immigrant Children in the State Courts online curriculum. 

The online curriculum aims to increase understanding among state court judges, court administrators, and court stakeholders about a) federal immigration law, policy, and practice, and the impact on state courts of cases involving UACs; b) how the work of the state courts in cases involving UACs intersects with the needs of the federal immigration system; c) the different types of cases and matters where UACs might appear in state courts; and d) the potential role of the state courts in providing factual findings in cases involving UACs.

The contents of the curriculum include an inventory of core elements that should be included in educational programs for state court practitioners when working with unaccompanied immigrant children, along with variations in the core elements that target the needs of state-court-level programs, trial-court-level programs, and juvenile- and dependency-court-focused programs. Also on the site are downloadable PDFs of a Guide for State Courts in Cases Involving Unaccompanied Immigrant Children and an Unaccompanied Immigrant Children and the State Courts quick reference information card.

To take the course, you must register at https://elearning.ncsc.org/portal/.  

The curriculum was produced with the support of the State Justice Institute-sponsored Immigration and the State Courts Initiative in partnership with the National Center for State Courts and the Center for Public Policy Studies.

In Memoriam: Geoff Gallas

NCSC mourns the loss of Geoff Gallas, who passed away unexpectedly Sunday, June 26. Geoff worked in the field of court administration for more than 30 years—much of that time as the dean of NCSC’s Institute for Court Management (ICM) Court Executive Development Program, which is now called the ICM Fellows Program. Geoff was a member of the first class of ICM Fellows in 1970. He also worked as senior consultant for the National Association for Court Management (NACM) and served as project director of NACM’s Core Competency Curriculum Guidelines, as vice president of NCSC’s Research Division, and as executive administrator of the First Judicial District in Pennsylvania.

Member Spotlight:  Milton Mack, Michigan

Why and how did you become a state court administrator? 

I was drafted for the position by our chief justice, Robert Young, who was extremely persuasive. I was serving as chief judge for the Wayne County Probate Court, the largest probate court in Michigan. I had been a probate judge for 25 years and had held many leadership positions within the judiciary. I had accomplished most of my long-term objectives, including changing the culture within my court by motivating staff to focus on quality customer service. I also became somewhat of an expert in the area of mental health reform. 

Justice Young helped me see that accepting the state court administrator position would give me the opportunity to use my leadership skills to positively impact the administration of justice throughout Michigan, including increasing court efficiency, improving access to justice, and reforming our mental health system.

My first day on the job as state court administrator was spent attending the COSCA conference last July. Meeting my new colleagues from around the country validated my decision. I was inspired by the ideas, dedication, talent, and energy to be found in COSCA, and look forward to this year’s conference in Wyoming. 

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

I love the “big picture” stuff—the opportunity to set policy and influence legislation to have a lasting impact on the justice system. I also enjoy being something of a goodwill ambassador to the courts. I don’t enjoy dealing with behavioral and performance problems of individual judges or the long commute to Lansing from my home, although it does provide me with lots of Zen time to listen to books or just think.

Tell us about your family.

My wife, Laura, is a district court judge in the City of Wayne, a small suburb of Detroit. We have been married for 20 years. My son and daughter-in-law, Adam and Steffanye, live in Chicago and are expecting their first child this November. My step-son and daughter-in-law, Doug and Tanya, live in Brighton with our granddaughter, Jade, who is 12 years old. My parents live in my hometown of Wayne.

What is your philosophy about using social networking? If you use social networking, which sites do you prefer, Facebook, Linked In, Twitter, or others?

As a judge, I avoided social networking like the plague. I rely on my wife for Facebook access and have a Linked In account with lots of contacts, but don’t use it. I think I have a Twitter account, but I don’t use it either. Since becoming state court administrator, I have not increased my presence on social media. However, our supreme court has almost 3,100 Twitter followers, and we aggressively use social media to share with stakeholders and the news media.

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

I love what I’m doing, so this is a tough question. If I won the lottery, I would probably continue doing what I’m doing. If forced to retire while still healthy, I would probably continue to serve on nonprofit boards, and do something in the area of strategic planning and setting policy.

Anniversaries . . .

COSCA congratulates the following members for achieving anniversaries in office in June and July: Denis Moran of Wisconsin (1 year, plus 15 previous years, 1978-1993); Kingsley Click of Oregon (21 years); Steve Canterbury of West Virginia and Karl Hade of Virginia (10 years); Callie Dietz of Washington (4 years, plus 5 previous years in Alabama, 2007-2012); Beth McLaughlin of Montana (5 years); Harry Spence of Massachusetts (4 years); Patricia Gabel of Vermont (3 years); PK Jameson of Florida (2 years); and Milton Mack of Michigan and Lawrence Marks of New York (1 year).

. . . and Birthdays

Eight COSCA members celebrate their birthdays in June and July. Happy Birthday to Rosalyn Frierson of South Carolina (June 3); Marion Warren of North Carolina (June 6); Lilia Judson of Indiana (June 8); Corey Steel of Nebraska (June 14); Dave Byers of Arizona (July 7); David Boyd of Iowa and Karl Hade of Virginia (July 8); and Deborah Tate of Tennessee (July 30).