NCSC President McQueen accepts ABA high award

On August 8, NCSC President Mary C. McQueen accepted the American Bar Association's John Marshall Award at a ceremony in Boston, Mass. The ABA created its award to recognize a colleague who has contributed to improving the administration of justice. 

The following are President McQueen's remarks to the ABA Judicial Division:

As a member of the ABA’s Judicial Division for more than 30 years, I remember when the John Marshall Award was established:

“An award created to recognize a colleague who has contributed to improving the administration of justice.” 

When I was appointed as the Washington State Administrator for the Courts, my daughter, Kelly, who is with us today, was interviewed by a reporter who asked her, “What does your mom do?"

Her answer? “Talk on the phone and go to meetings.”

Sound like the administration of justice to you?

But until North Carolina Justice Mark Martin called me to announce the 2014 recipient of the ABA Judicial Division’s John Marshall Award, I had never personally considered why the Judicial Division had chosen to name an award for the improvement of judicial administration for our nation’s fourth U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice. 

Marshall’s legacy opinion in Marbury v. Madison obviously established him as the architect and defender of judicial review – the cornerstone of our truly independent judicial branch – but how had Marshall advanced the administration of justice?

One of Marshall’s successors, after all, had sponsored the creation of the Federal Judicial Center, the National Judicial College, the Institute for Court Management, and the National Center for State Courts – wasn’t Chief Justice Warren Burger the champion of judicial administration?

So began my quest to discover the true John Marshall – the fourth and longest serving Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court;  a lawyer trained at William & Mary Law School -- NCSC’s neighbor and partner in Williamsburg -- and a recognized architect of judicial independence.

My pursuit of John Marshall – judicial administrator – led me through his personal letters, articles, and opinions.  But the connection to judicial administration came from a surprising and unexpected source – a book on managing talented and powerful people – “Leading Leaders” – written by J.W. Salacuse. 

Salacuse includes in his review of effective leaders lessons learned from Chief Justice John Marshall.  So the father of judicial independence was also our country’s first judicial administrator.  As Chief Justice, John Marshall had no actual authority over his colleagues on the court – some of whom had been appointed by Marshall’s political adversary, Thomas Jefferson.  Yet, why were these associate justices -- leaders in law and politics in their own right -- willing to abandon individual recognition to join Marshall in the court’s first per curium opinions? 

Marshall not only introduced the per curium opinion, he established what may have been the nation’s first caseflow management program – creating a court calendar, an 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. docket, and the first opinion circulation process.  He successfully defended the court against Congressional attempts to expand the size of the bench, pack the court, and strip its jurisdiction by submitting written testimony in the form of a letter to Speaker of the House Henry Clay.

Through anonymous editorials, Marshall advocated for preserving judicial tenure and securing adequate court funding.  Chief Justice Marshall also believed that public trust and confidence was essential to maintaining a strong, legitimate and independent judicial branch and personally embraced judicial outreach by providing opportunities for the public to observe the court in action in Washington D.C. or on the circuit – wonder what he would think about cameras in the courtroom?

To Marshall, leadership was not power or position – leadership was about relationships.  By providing for the associate justices to lodge at the same boardinghouse on Capitol Hill, to share meals, conference after oral argument, and issue per curium opinions, Marshall increased the prestige and authority of court. In other words, Marshall advanced the administration of justice.

One of Marshall’s predecessors, the first Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, John Jay, challenged Marshall and subsequent Chief Justices to pursue the administration of justice when he wrote:

“The expediency of carrying justice to every man’s door is obvious – how to do it is far from apparent.”

So the question is not if we should – but rather how we should improve the administration of justice.

Today, I am honored to accept the ABA Judicial Division’s John Marshall Award on behalf of those state court judges, justices, administrators and lawyers who daily follow Chief Justice Marshall’s blueprint for improving the administration of justice.

Those who strive to:

  • Preserve fair and impartial courts
  • Reduce cost and delay
  • Increase access to justice
  • Insure adequate funding
  • Increase public trust and confidence in the courts, and
  • Build trusted inner branch partnerships

By embracing John Marshall’s leadership model of:

  • Deference
  • Attentiveness
  • Courtesy,  and
  • Collegiality

We can continue to improve and advance the administration of justice by following Chief Justice Marshall’s advice:

“To listen well is as powerful a means of communication and influence as to speak well.”

Thank you for choosing me to be the 2014 standard-bearer for the administration of justice

I enthusiastically embrace the 2014 John Marshall Award.

Thank you.