My final column before the election of officers that will occur at our Philadelphia meeting finds COSCA in great transition. Every week seems to bring news of a new member as the list of former members grows. We watch our colleagues move on to new challenges with mixed emotions. We will miss them personally and professionally as we wish them well in new endeavors in retirement, on the bench, teaching as a law professor, and other interesting fields. At the same time, we enthusiastically welcome our new colleagues. We will gladly make every effort in Philadelphia to make them feel at home in the COSCA community.
Happy New (fiscal) Year! With relief that may be tinged with regret over the results, many of us have seen another season of making budgets and creating new laws end with the exit of legislators from our capital cities. Except in those few states where legislating is a full-time job, most of us get a respite from legislative activities in the summer and autumn. In most places it is also an off year for elections, so most of us have a respite from that distraction. As we begin a new fiscal cycle, I hope your coffers are reasonably full. May you all experience rekindled vigor for new and ongoing projects that carry forward into the new fiscal year.
Reform appears to be gaining momentum everywhere in the criminal and civil justice systems. As Timothy Schnacke states in the most recently published Trends in State Courts from NCSC, “bail reform is unavoidable” and will happen either because courts take the lead in implementing reforms or because courts are directing change through rulings in numerous cases. Under the leadership of Chief Justice O’Connor and Laurie Dudgeon, the Task Force on Fines, Fees and Bail Practices is entering the final stages of its important work. Their enlightening article can also be found in Trends. On the civil justice side, reform is gaining momentum on new frontiers such as online dispute resolution. It is a persistent and endearing characteristic of COSCA that our colleagues are always patient and generous with their time and energy when called upon to assist other states with challenges about which they already have gained valuable experience. The ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus is credited with writing “change is the only constant in life.” I think he was a court administrator. Managing constant change is challenging, exciting, and also stressful. We all need to remember to rely on each other for help in meeting new and old challenges in the exciting and exhausting work we are privileged to do.
It has been a great honor and privilege to serve as your president this past year. It is a humbling experience to lead such a fine organization of dedicated professionals. I offer my heartfelt thanks to each of you for your friendship and support.
CTC Coming to Salt Lake City
The next national Court Technology Conference (CTC 2017) will be in Salt Lake City, Utah, September 12-14, 2017. CTC is the world’s largest conference dedicated to court technology. It provides judges, court administrators, and technologists with three days of professional development, education sessions, and networking.
From the keynote speaker to all the educational sessions, CTC 2017 will feature the latest in how technology can improve the administration of justice from many renowned experts in the field. Five educational tracks are being offered this year:
Show Me the Data
Maintaining Public Trust and Confidence
Looking into the Future
You can access the entire CTC schedule simply by creating a free account. You can register for the conference here.
NCSC Releases Trends in State Courts 2017
The U.S. Department of Justice’s investigation into the relationship between law enforcement, the courts, and the citizens of Ferguson, Missouri revealed an unsettling problem—the impact of increasing court fines and fees, along with additional sanctions for nonpayment, on the poor. This year’s edition of Trends in State Courts, an annual publication of the National Center for State Courts, examines the issues posed by fines, fees, and bail practices at the local, state, and national levels, and what courts and states are doing in response. For example:
risk assessment in New Jersey to determine whether offenders pose a real threat to public safety
principles and recommendations by the Arizona Task Force on Fair Justice for All
reforms in Missouri to refocus municipal courts on the purposes of the justice system and not just on an offender’s ability to pay fines and fees
A limited number of print copies of Trends in State Courts 2017 are available from NCSC’s Knowledge and Information Services at 1-800-616-6164. Trends can also be viewed online.
State Court Organization 2016 Now Available
NCSC has released State Court Organization 2016, which presents detailed comparative data about how state trial and appellate courts are organized and administered in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and the territories of Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, and Virgin Islands. SCO features data on many topics. For example:
Thirty-one states and the District of Columbia limit the maximum age for appellate and trial court judges to between 65 to 90 years old, but most states set the maximum age between 70 and 75.
Thirty-six states and the District of Columbia limit the number of years that a trial court judge can serve the court as a presiding judge—from six months in South Carolina to 12 years in Delaware.
Nineteen states allow juries to submit questions in criminal trials, and 23 states allow it in civil trials.
Twenty-five states have judicial branch Facebook pages; 27 have judicial branch Twitter feeds.
Member Spotlight: Kingsley Click, Oregon
Why and how did you become a state court administrator?
The short version of how: I was the deputy state court administrator at the time that the incumbent state court administrator took another position and provided only a couple weeks’ notice before his departure. It was just before the start of a long legislative session and the then chief justice was in need of an immediate “stand-in,” and so he requested I become the acting SCA for that duration and I agreed. After the legislative session concluded seven months later, the chief justice asked, after consulting with others, if I would give up the acting job and stay on as the permanent SCA. So I agreed to do so (thinking that I had just plowed and planted the field and wanted to stay for the harvest, if any). I have to say I had a very wise and tolerant boss in that chief justice and he was a great mentor to me. We worked as a team for over 16 years. In the years since then I have remained very fortunate in the support and positive leadership provided by the chief justices that have come after.
Why: I guess the why is answered by the next question of what I like(d) most about being a state court administrator. To have the opportunity to combine law, policy work and working with interesting people dedicated to the challenging mission of delivering justice as a unified court system while improving its administration and access to the people of the state was inviting to me. I held a strong belief in the uniqueness and fragility of our still relatively new state court system and I cared very much that the “experiment” would succeed. I wanted to be both a good steward of it and be part of shaping its future.
What do you like most and least about being a state court administrator?
I can only speak from the “Oregon” experience. As noted, here we have a unified statewide and state-funded trial and appellate court system that began as such (merging from a county-based and -funded court system) on January 1, 1983, so the many years since then have been a steady evolution, through trial and tribulation, towards achieving this goal and vision in reality. After working a number of years for the federal courts, I joined the state court office in early 1984 and held several different types of program positions before becoming the state court administrator in 1995 (and now retiring in November 2017). What I always enjoyed was working with the people around me in problem solving, and the nature of the overall policy work, which included working with the executive and legislative branches as well.
The chief justices I have worked for have been dedicated to improvement and stewardship of the mission of the judicial branch. The judges, court administrators, and staff equally have been dedicated. It doesn’t mean there weren’t many strong disagreements, issues, and challenges to work out, especially with budget reductions and reduced resources—but we always knew it was important to resolve the disputes peaceably and in a practical (and legal) manner for what was best for the state and the unified court system. There was no day that was the same, even with issues that repeated themselves. I called that a “good thing.” So I enjoyed all the challenges and issues, although sometimes I characterized them as “too much of a good thing” (when they all came in at once for immediate action and it seemed a bit overwhelming).
What I didn’t like: Not much except for the crushing and destructive budget cuts when Oregon’s economy and general fund couldn’t support its court system properly—or even adequately. The courts have been resourceful and resilient to the extent feasible, but it was deeply discouraging, and we still are fighting that uphill battle to find a good and stable funding balance. I also have disliked not having good methods for helping people who call on us to help them but their reality and issues are so distorted and they are so damaged in their ability to lead their lives, that we too could not find a way forward for them. Those situations are daily faced by many others in their jobs, but it often takes up a great deal of time and emotional toil without any satisfaction for anyone in the end, and it’s hard to accept that outcome.
Tell us about your family.
I have a spouse who is a lawyer too. We each grew up in an “Army” family who lived in and out of the U.S. during our youth, and that broadened our views of the world and what a democracy was all about. We met while we each were working in Washington, D.C., a place where our oldest child also was born before we came to Oregon. We now have three grown daughters. One serves as a lawyer for an environmental group, one as a teacher abroad, and one as a high-tech businesswoman. They all kept me grounded through the years and abundantly filled my life. We have loved living in Oregon and enjoying all its natural beauty and wonder. We have been lucky living in Salem, where the size of the city let us have short commutes and be part of a school and town community too. We have two young grandchildren now who are teaching us the fine art of grandparenting. Otherwise we have an energetic dog and two clever cats who continue to keep us humble and on our toes as well.
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 don’ t know that I have a philosophy about it—except to view it as a communication tool—as I am more a follower as to the reason for the particular social media applications that I have adopted. I don’t use public social-networking sites for my position, nor do I talk about my job or views on social media as it’s important to me to maintain a neutral-persona identity for the job. Our office does use a few social-network tools for public outreach or emergencies. Otherwise, I use the social-networking sites that my family or friends use to communicate or share pictures and events, and closed social family groups to group message the mundane, noteworthy, and fun to share to keep us in daily/weekly contact with each other’s lives although we live all over the globe. So that includes Facebook, Twitter, Whats App, and Instagram; blogs among others; as well as the “normal” email, Facetime, and texting channels that relatives or parents of technologically proficient offspring have had to learn to do to stay relevant and up to date!
If you didn’t have to work for a living, what would you do?
Well I didn’t ever really dwell on that option, as I am notoriously bad at winning games of chance, like lotteries and cake walks, so didn’t think that was in my “cards.” Also the way I grew up, and the experiences I had with the childhood loss of parents, I knew I needed to be able to take care of myself and to work for a living. So to be able to work and have it be for a purpose that I believed in, I guess I didn’t feel deprived for anything by not working. Except I have wished for having more time (and some desire to take time off from management duties!) to spend with and enjoy family and other pursuits and people. The work hours, especially with our legislative sessions, have been very long and with technology you are always on call and on task 24/7. So I am looking forward to that part in retirement (and for not working for a living at that same unrelenting pace). There are, therefore, many things it will be great to get back to and pick up the pieces left stored away long ago—with additional time for things such as helping with the “kids,” art, travel, reading, learning languages and new studies, gardening, sitting, looking at clouds, hiking and becoming more healthy, and decluttering a house of 50 years of worldly possessions (ours and others). I look forward to exploring the future and sharing the rest of the time I hope to have and to maybe find a few more passions to follow, and make contributions, at a creative or community level. I have many things in mind, but, I just look forward to the luxury of mulling them over and taking it one day at a time for a while without a long list of “have to do’s.”
Anniversaries . . .
COSCA congratulates the following members for achieving anniversaries in office in July through September: Karl Hade of Virginia (12 years); Artie Pepin of New Mexico (11 years); Glenn Grant of New Jersey (9 years); Christine Johnson of Alaska (8 years); Beth McLaughlin of Montana (6 years); Michael Tardy of Illinois and Callie Dietz of Washington (5 years); Pat Gabel of Vermont, Pamela Harris of Maryland, and Greg Sattizahn of South Dakota (4 years); PK Jameson of Florida (3 years); Lawrence Marks of New York and Tom Darr of Pennsylvania (2 years); and Sara Thomas of Idaho, Mary Willis of Indiana, and Sigfrido Steidel-Figueroa of Puerto Rico (1 year).
. . . and Birthdays
Twelve COSCA member celebrate birthdays from July through September. Happy Birthday to Gary Johnson of West Virginia (July 1), Dave Byers of Arizona (July 7), David Boyd of Iowa (July 8), Karl Hade of Virginia (July 8), Deborah Taylor Tate of Tennessee (July 30), Cynthia Clanton of Georgia (August 3), Tom Darr of Pennsylvania (August 12), David Slayton of Texas (August 16), Marty Sullivan of Arkansas (August 29), Randy Helms of Alabama (September 18), Robin Sweet of Nevada (September 21), and Michael Tardy of Illinois (September 28).