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Margaret R. Allen, 2015 Class Spokesperson
President McQueen, Vice President Meeks, Administrator Harris, Dean Straub, Toni Grainer, Amy McDowell, guests and my fellow Fellows.
First, I’m honored to speak on behalf of our class today. You are such impressive individuals, and the fact that you placed your confidence in me is humbling.
We are here today to mark both the end of a journey and the beginning of a new phase of our careers. 22 court professionals came together as strangers in January 2014 in pursuit of a goal – to explore court administration through coursework and the execution of a research project. The original goal of the Fellows Program traces its history to Chief Justice Warren Burger's call for improved management of court administration. This is the only program of its kind in the United States, and I think I speak on behalf of the class when I say it is a privilege to have taken part in this experience.
The overall purpose of the Fellows Program is leadership development, and certainly that has been a theme throughout our coursework.
For our guests, let me give a few details of what our class undertook over this last 16 months. Before starting the Fellows program, we each took six courses in our home states, online, or in Williamsburg on what I’ll call the nuts and bolts of court administration – topics like caseflow management, that is, how cases move efficiently through courts, human resources, technology, finance and performance measurement. Then, to complete the second phase, some of us took an additional six courses, either one by one in our home states or in Williamsburg. Others of us traveled to Williamsburg to participate in the three-week residential program.
In this second phase, the class examined court leadership from a 30,000 foot view with topics such as visioning and strategic planning, leadership, public relations, education, and others. In addition, we all completed an online course in the Spring of 2014. Because of the diverse options that the Institute for Court Management provides to complete this program, this week marks the first time all the members of our class are present in the same location. I know I speak on behalf of the class when I say that it was such a pleasure to meet Abril, Melinda, Melissa, Paul, and Roberta this week after only hearing your voices up to this point.
This week, our faculty and guests have remarked on how close our class has become, and it is true. Having shared this experience, we’ve gotten to know each other well personally and professionally.
I’d like to frame my remarks around two quotes. First, Isaac Newton said, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”
As we speak of standing on the shoulders of giants, it seems appropriate to highlight words that appear on the NCSC seal, taken from the Magna Carta, written 800 years ago this year: To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice. For this is the work of the courts: protecting citizens’ rights. The Magna Carta established for the first time the principle that everybody, including the king, was subject to the law. The clause I mentioned a moment ago gave all free men the right to justice and a fair trial. Later on, echoes of the Magna Carta can be seen in the Bill of Rights and other documents.
I name former Chief Justice Warren Burger as another giant. Chief Justice Burger founded NCSC as a central resource for the state courts. His vision was to provide support and resources to courts across the country, and today we see that his vision has come to fruition, through all the activities of NCSC – conferences, publications, research, consulting, and, of course, education.
Just over 1200 people have completed the Institute for Court Management Fellows program in its nearly 50 year history, and the ripple effect on the profession of court administration created by the research performed by ICM Fellows candidates is enormous. We may be “giants” for future generations, due to the relevant topics we have explored this year, including examining how to reduce the rate of failures to appear, providing adult guardians for those in need, examining how DWI cases are processed, or looking at how the performance of accountability courts is measured. Our research is now part of the body of literature related to court administration, and we can be proud that our efforts will be available to others seeking to make a difference as court leaders.
The last “giant” I’d like to highlight is the Founding Dean of the Institute for Court Management, Ernest Friesen. He is known as the father of court administration, and he offered the profession the Purposes of courts. In the judiciary, he is a living legend, and last year was honored with the National Association for Court Management Award of Merit. Over a period of 10 years, he asked each group of judges and court administrators he taught what the purposes of courts were. He compiled the results and proposed 8 Purposes that still inform the values of courts today:
We are grateful for the vision and wisdom of those who influence our work to this day.
My second quote comes from John Donne: "No man is an island."
To our family members and friends, both those present today and those celebrating our accomplishment from afar, thank you for all you did to make it possible for us to participate in this intensive program. We couldn’t have done it without you.
To our colleagues – you approved our participation, and covered tasks large and small during this time, and we thank you. We have several colleagues with us today, and I would like to recognize them by name at this time:
District Court of Maryland:
Chief Judge John Morrissey
Executive Director Polly Harding,
Administrator Amber Herrmann,
Milt Nuzum, Director of Judicial Services Division, Supreme Court of Ohio
President Judge Stephen Linebaugh. 19th Judicial District, York, PA
The District Court Administrator York, PA, Paul Crouse
Clerk of Courts for York County, Don O’Shell.
Thank you all for being here to support us on this day of celebration, and throughout the program.
Colleagues, would you join me once more in thanking all those at the NCSC who played a part in providing this extraordinary opportunity? Mary Campbell McQueen, John Meeks, Dan Straub, Amy McDowell, and Toni Grainer.
A face is missing from the ceremony today, and I want to acknowledge and thank the late Joan Cochet of the NCSC library. The NCSC library is the only library dedicated to court administration materials in the world, and as you can imagine, there were many materials there that were useful for our projects. Joan worked tirelessly to provide us with materials, always with a smile, and when she passed away unexpectedly last fall, it was a great loss for all of us who knew her, as well as for the court community as a whole. Joan, we thank you for your significant role in our successful completion of our projects.
Our work is meaningful because we are one part of a large important system. The judiciary is interconnected. We may have individual courts, counties and states, but our overarching goals are the same.
Whether we work in a unified judicial system, that is, one in which the judiciary is directed by a central office, or a decentralized state, in which individual counties and courts have the latitude to make many decisions about how they operate, it is important to create context for judicial officers and court employees, as well as the public, to ensure that they know that courts everywhere uphold the same values.
Today, I’ve shared my thoughts about why the work that we do is so important. To my colleagues, I congratulate you. To our guests, I thank you for being with us on this momentous day to celebrate our achievement. To President McQueen, Vice President Meeks, Dean Straub and our commencement speaker, Maryland State Court Administrator Pamela Harris, I thank you again on behalf of the class for all that you have done, are doing and will do in the future to support state courts and the professionals who strive to make them better.
I’ll close with the words of NCSC Founder Chief Justice Burger, who said, “Concepts of justice must have hands and feet to carry out justice in every case”. My fellow Fellows, I submit to you that we are those hands and those feet. As we walk together in our quest to improve the administration of justice as court leaders, we may each hold different tools, but I am confident that we can and we will fulfill the imperative posed by those who forged the Magna Carta: To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice.
Thank you. Ladies and gentlemen, we are the ICM Fellows Class of 2015.