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Court professionals attend national FEMA training on continuity of operations

Ukrainians at CCPIOCourt professionals attend national FEMA training on continuity of operations

This summer, court professionals from 25 states and two U.S. territories spent four days focused on continuity of operations planning (COOP) during a unique training opportunity hosted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Emergency Management Institute. The training took place at the National Emergency Training Center in Maryland.

For the first time, FEMA conducted state court training at a national level on topics including roles and responsibilities, essential functions, mitigation strategies, continuity plan and program development, and after-action evaluation. The course was led by FEMA National Continuity Programs trainers Denise Chrosniak and Justin Mammen, who is also the emergency response and security services manager for the Orange County Superior Court of California.

“It was fascinating to talk with participants from other states and territories to hear how unique each state’s court system is structured and the vast differences in the level of resources that each state has to work with,” said Jennifer Erwin, continuity consultant for the Florida Office of the State Courts Administrator. “There is a great need to continue to collaborate and share information between court emergency managers across the states.”

NCSC organized and facilitated the program through an SJI Emergency Management Strategic Grant Initiative designed to increase awareness of the emergency management needs of state courts. Additional resources developed under the grant include lessons learned from courts that have experienced a major natural disaster, a Courts Continuity Planning Guide and Template, and an interactive Courts Continuity Assessment Tool.

NCSC Project Director Nathan Hall said many court professionals who are not explicitly charged with emergency management responsibilities may not be aware of what their role is or should be regarding continuity planning and program management.

“Developing and managing a continuity program is a big effort and touches on the full spectrum of court operations—therefore, developing a good COOP requires more than just a dedicated emergency manager—it requires the support of court leadership and the participation of many staff throughout the organization,” he said.

Jessica Kellogg, the emergency services coordinator for the Superior Court of California—County of Alameda, said she found the course particularly relevant following her recent transition from the executive branch in Los Angeles County.

“It was super helpful to learn about COOP planning and management strategies in a context specifically tailored to court organizations,” she said. “In fact, the timing for this program could not have been better for my court as we are in the middle of reworking our COOP plan. The curriculum shared in class included specific activities that can be used to build the COOP plan. I was able to immediately begin implementing what I learned as soon as I returned to my court.”

NCSC hopes to continue working with FEMA to coordinate similar events in the future. For more information about this training or other resources, please email Hall.

Ukranians at CCPIOUkrainian officials describe war-time court communications during PIO conference

Two Ukrainian officials provided a firsthand account of how courts are continuing to deliver justice during the Conference of Court Public Information Officers (CCPIO) annual meeting earlier this month. USAID Justice for All Legal Advisor Uliana Pashynna and Olha Honcharuk-Alifanova, a judge from the Hmylnyk District Court of Vinitsya Region, joined the conference virtually to share insights about court communications during the war. Both had attended CCPIO’s last in-person annual conference, held in 2019 in Ohio, to learn more about court communications in the United States.

Judge Honcharuk-Alifanova emphasized the need to continue to communicate with the public—even when the judiciary has suffered cyber-attacks and destruction to physical structures. Additionally, court communicators must carefully balance the protection of rights, openness, and security of visitors and judges in their work. She said the Ukrainian court system needs to increase its communications capacity to support the massive amount of war crimes cases to be heard. This capacity includes providing English translation for press releases, summaries, and other communications, along with establishing media relations officer positions.

“Courts understand the importance of effective communications during the war, in particular the foreign media, as part of transparency of the Ukrainian judicial system,” Judge Honcharuk-Alifanova said.