One of the great privileges of becoming president of COSCA is the opportunity to share with you a few thoughts and to highlight all the outstanding work of our conference. The annual meeting in Philadelphia was one memory that will stand out for me as I recall 2017. Tom Darr and his staff provided excellent facilities and social venues. The education program was thought provoking and well executed, and I appreciated the commitment of our members to engage with the various committees and task forces that CCJ and COSCA have developed. Given the active participation of our membership (long-timers, new members, and those in-between), I really look forward to our midyear conference in New Orleans.
I have been thinking a great deal about how courts are facing many changes. The demands on access to court records and data by so many entities, budget reduction, staffing and personnel issues, turnover in judicial officers, declining caseloads, emerging technologies, substance abuse, and mental illness are but a few of the issues disrupting courts in today’s world. How we handle these challenges is key to a progressive judicial system and a strong third branch of government.
The midyear conference will focus on a number of these disrupting factors and will also provide an opportunity for us to share best practices or solutions that various states have implemented to reduce the disruption on their judiciary and citizens. We will also have the opportunity to pilot a judicial leadership curriculum being developed. I encourage ALL our members to plan on staying through Sunday so that you can participate in this excellent training opportunity on Saturday afternoon following our business meeting and lunch. Both the education program and this leadership curriculum promise to be excellent resources.
Also, for new members, if you haven’t participated in New Member Orientation, I highly encourage you to come early and spend Wednesday with us. The Services to New Members Committee has put a good deal of thought and work into this program. You know those questions you would like to ask, but don’t feel comfortable asking them at home? This is the place to not only ask them, but also get suggestions from experienced members on how they have responded to many similar issues. This is an opportunity to learn about state courts in general, issues of concern to state court administrators specifically, and more about COSCA and NCSC and what we can do to support you in your new position.
I want to thank our members who were kind enough to accept the responsibility for chairing or being vice-chair of our many committees. I greatly appreciate your generosity of time and leadership. We will continue an excellent tradition of service and will accomplish more great things in the next year. The hard work and progress made would not be possible without the commitment of our committees and the numerous tasks they undertake.
I also thank the members of the COSCA Board of Directors (past and present) for your leadership, support, and willingness to work on behalf of our membership. The extra meetings; additional time to set policy, and involvement in all of our governance issues takes a good deal of energy and extra work. You have been tremendous in your willingness to take on these additional responsibilities and in your professionalism and guidance.
Thank you to our COSCA membership. I am so honored and humbled by your faith and trust in me to guide you over the next year. Thank you for your active participation in our work and your commitment to excellence.
Last, but certainly not least, thank you to ALL the dedicated and outstanding staff of NCSC. Without your expertise, support, and resources, our jobs would be incredibly hard. You make sure we are on time, on budget, and focused on the issues that need our attention. Your expertise and information is incredible.
Until we meet again, please keep good thoughts and prayers for our court families hit by the devastating weather and wildfires throughout the country. It will take years for some communities to build back what was lost in the hurricanes, tornados, and floods. If there is anything I, or others, can do to assist you as members of COSCA with your committee work or state initiatives and projects, please don’t hesitate to call or email me.
CCJ/COSCA Form National Opioid-Crisis Task Force
COSCA and the Conference of Chief Justices (CCJ) have formed a new task force to confront the misuse of opioids, such as heroin, morphine, and prescription pain killers. This task force brings together state court leaders to find solutions, examine current efforts, and make recommendations to address the impact of the opioid crisis on the justice system. Strategies include:
Convening representatives from state and federal government and key national organizations to share existing strategies and identify unmet needs.
Creating partnerships with entities addressing the impact of opioids on children, with specific emphasis on foster care, assisting state courts in developing opioid task forces, and working with existing state task forces to make recommendations for local response efforts.
Developing guiding principles that state courts can use for successful collaboration among treatment providers, criminal justice systems, and child welfare agencies.
Creating a checklist of state legislation, policy, and court rules that aid or inhibit response efforts.
Loretta H. Rush, chief justice of Indiana, and Deborah Taylor Tate, state court administrator of Tennessee, are the task force co-chairs. The task force will hold its first meeting on November 13, 2017.
Did You Make It to CTC 2017?
If you couldn’t be at Court Technology Conference 2017, the National Center for State Courts has provided a useful infographic summarizing the conference's many speeches, presentations, and education sessions. What are some of the most significant cybersecurity concerns? What new technological innovations might increase efficiency? How can analyzing data help make courts more user friendly? Videos of the educational sessions have been posted online, too.
Learn to Painlessly Navigate the Technology Procurement Process
What software ownership models are right for your court? How can your court better manage vendors during a technology integration process? How can your court staff and technology vendors navigate the traditional adversarial procurement rules to nurture a partnership? Learn the answers to these and other concerns associated with the procurement process in a Court Technology Procurement workshop November 7-8 at the Trial Court Education Center, Superior Court of Arizona. The workshop is sponsored by the National Center for State Courts in collaboration with COSCA, the National Association for Court Management, the Court Information Officers’ Consortium, IJIS Institute Court Advisory Committee, and the Trial Courts of Maricopa County. Registration is $395. For more information and to register, please contact NCSC’s Alisa Kim at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Member Spotlight: Rick Schwermer, Utah
Why and how did you become a state court administrator?
Why? Because of the incredibly important work our state courts do. It sounds cliché, but the rule of law is the rudder that keeps us moving forward in the right direction, away from the rocks on the shoreline. Hopefully a stable and predictable court and legal system moderates some of our current political polarization and protects constitutional rights. Those ideals are why I wanted to be a lawyer when I was a kid—naïve, I know.
How? I admit I had no idea what job I was applying for when I applied to be the state justice jourt administrator in 1989, but I lucked out and was brought into a fascinating administrative system that allowed me to think I was helping to make an important contribution to the courts and society. I hope I’ve done so.
What do you like most and least about being a state court administrator?
I like the perspective I have now of the state courts as a whole, and how that big-picture perspective allows me/us to really implement change and new and better ideas. I love the challenge of harmonizing the myriad different interests and needs of the many constituencies of the courts, to the end of providing better service to the public. That part is fun and rewarding.
I least like budget and HR—I mean, who likes that? And getting sued, that’s getting old too.
Tell us about your family.
My wife is fabulous. Everyone says that, but mine is. We met in college and have been married almost 30 years, and she is the president of a cancer research foundation. That means she raises hundreds of millions of dollars that go directly to cancer research, but it also means she grounds me with her endless compassion for the patients. Often our weekends involve her arranging care for those who are at that worst moment in their lives, in response to a tearful call. My English-major wife has had to learn everything about big-money finance, bonds, bond counsel, etc., to finance and build a cancer hospital and three research facilities. So she did. Amazing.
My adult son is smarter than I could ever hope to be, has his own tech company with dozens of employees at 27, but more importantly is incredibly kind and decent. My recent college-graduate daughter’s world is music, bands, band promotion, and going to concerts of groups you’ve never heard of. She’s working her way up in the world of the music industry, and is also incredibly kind and generous. I am a very lucky man.
What is your philosophy about using social networking? If you use social networking, which sites do you prefer, Facebook, Linked In, Twitter, or others?
Social media is an important tool for the courts, and we use it, but personally I try to stay off the grid. I have no Facebook account (horrors!), but I do use (but don’t post on) Twitter, largely to follow news coverage of the courts and legislators who have an interest in the courts.
If you didn’t have to work for a living, what would you do?
Travel, golf more, and probably volunteer somewhere. Spend even more time at our cabin in the mountains. But the thought of not working makes me a little anxious.
Anniversaries . . .
COSCA congratulates the following members for achieving anniversaries in office in October through December: Dave Byers of Arizona and Ted Glessner of Maine (25 years); Sally Holewa of North Dakota (12 years); Rod Maile of Hawaii (7 years); Jeff Shorba of Minnesota (5 years); Patrick Carroll of Connecticut and Regina Petersen of the Virgin Islands (4 years); Martin Hoshino of California and Lily Sharpe of Wyoming (3 years); Jari Askins of Oklahoma, Cynthia Clanton of Georgia and Marion Warren of North Carolina (2 years); and Randy Helms of Alabama (1 year).
. . . and Birthdays
Fourteen COSCA members celebrate birthdays from October through December. Happy Birthday to Nancy Dixon of Kansas (October 6); Rod Maile of Hawaii (October 10); Marcia Meis of Illinois (October 17); Sara Thomas of Idaho (October 28); Johnathan Williams of Massachusetts (November 5); Kevin Lackey of Mississippi (November 9); Callie Dietz of Washington (November 15); Mary Willis of Indiana (November 18); Sigfrido Steidel-Figueroa of Puerto Rico (December 9); Milton Mack of Michigan (December 21); Ted Glessner of Maine (December 23); Patricia (PK) Jameson of Florida (December 24); and Glenn Grant of New Jersey and Artie Pepin of New Mexico (December 29).