Editor’s Note: One of the highlights of the 2023 Annual NACM Conference in Tampa, Florida was the State of the Profession speech, delivered by NACM President Jeffrey Tsunekawa. NACM Board member and vice chair of the Governance Committee Nicole Garcia summarized President Tsunekawa’s approach well:
This year’s conference theme was Fulfilling the Promise of Justice for All through Connection. Historically, the State of the Profession speech is a group effort by members of the Governance Committee, and it is delivered as a typical speech by the outgoing NACM President. This year was a bit different. President Jeffrey Tsunekawa really wanted to share the stage, so to speak, with NACM members who were subject-matter experts in the various areas we were highlighting in this year’s speech. This was also a way to demonstrate the connection theme of the conference. As Jeffrey said in his speech, NACM exemplifies the saying “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” So, the final product was still a group effort, just in a different way than it had been in the past. Jeffrey put in a lot of work doing virtual interviews of the members who would participate in the speech. I think each of the sections were fantastic and very impactful, particularly the sections by Kevin Bowling and Stacey Fields. I am really proud of Jeffrey and his vision for this speech. I think it turned out so well and the personal statements that Jeffrey made at the end touched so many of our members, and I know there were people who felt seen and validated.
So, as described above, the format was different, but the messages were clear and will resonate with time. Read on for outgoing NACM President Jeffrey Tsunekawa’s State of the Profession speech, delivered on July 11, 2023.
Good morning, everyone!
I am pleased to be here to deliver the sixth annual State of the Profession Address for the National Association for Court Management.
Every year we come together to reconnect and celebrate the achievements made in our profession. We will also take this time to look ahead at emerging issues that many of us will continue to tackle as the landscape continues to change.
I truly believe that NACM exemplifies the saying that “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts,” because the talents, skills, and ideas that every member contributes is what makes this organization special and allows us to continually move forward.
NACM is not about any one member but rather what we can all accomplish together.
In that spirit, I have asked several of our members and colleagues to help me tell the story of NACM and our progress in this past year.
First, it’s about partnerships.
The partnerships that NACM has developed with other organizations such as NCJFCJ/SJI/NCSC broadens our contribution to the field of court management.
This has been a personal passion of mine as I’ve led the organization this year and had the privilege of working with some great partners that I’d like to introduce. Let’s hear from Joey, Jonathan, and Jesse about why partnerships are important in the field of judicial administration and why it’s important to partner with NACM.
Joey Orduña Hastings, executive director, National Conference of Family and Juvenile Court Justices, discusses the value of partnerships in the field of judicial administration.
Jonathan Mattiello, executive director of the State Justice Institute, and Jesse Rutledge, vice president, external effairs, National Center for State Courts, discuss why it is important to have a partnership with the NACM as an organization.
Second, this year, we have seen attacks on judicial officers across the country as well as attacks on court information databases and network infrastructures. The security of courts, judicial officers, and personnel continues to be a major area of concern, as well as new areas that are coming to light in recent days, like technical security.
We have all heard stories of breaches in court security; some very close and personal, as I have witnessed, and it should make us all be more diligent and passionate about this area.
My colleagues Hector and Aaron will share the primary challenges that courts should be thinking about to successfully secure our courts and processes.
Hector Gomez, court security director, Texas Office of Court Administration, discusses advancements in safety, security, and privacy in the courts.
Aaron Williamson, business process and education manager, Minnesota Judicial Branch, shares the value of safety, security, and privacy in the field of judicial administration.
Third, this might be the most important thing I say today.
When I first joined NACM, I ran into an Asian woman, her name is Winnie Webber, who may not remember me, but she had a great impact on me.
She said, “Welcome to NACM, learn all you can, but you will probably not see someone that looks like you.” She was right then, but fortunately for both she and I, things have changed.
As a gay, Asian, married man, I have charted new waters that would not have been possible, if not for the support of an organization that takes this to heart.
There has been a lot said about Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in private industry, public sector, and beyond.
Well, it’s one thing to talk about it. It’s another thing to do something about it.
Standing here in the state of Florida, where these principles have been challenged, I am proud to say that NACM has stayed the course and produced a guide that pursues the ideals, dreams, and promises of what diversity, equity, and inclusion really means.
I have been personally challenged this year to evaluate my own biases. So, I challenge all of you to make it your mission to make DEI a mantra in your organizations.
We will remain committed to this mission to make sure that DEI is a central principle of our organization, and we will continue to support all local and regional efforts to promote these ideals.
But, let’s remember, DEI is a journey, not a destination. My friends Roger and Edwin express why this is important in the field of judicial administration, and I encourage you to listen to their call to action in this area.
Roger Rand, IT manager, Multnomah Circuit Court, and Edwin Bell, director of racial justice, equity and inclusion, National Center for State Courts, expand on why diversity, equity, and inclusion are important to the field of judicial administration.
Access to Justice
Fourth, as court professionals, we all have a passion to help people go through the process with dignity and respect and allow them the opportunity to be heard.
Although the court system is not necessarily known for being “timely or efficient,” during the pandemic, access increased by leaps and bounds as we rushed to keep courts running and maintaining access to the rights and processes afforded to everyone entering our courts.
As court professionals we should make sure that we continue to maintain these advancements and expand upon what we’ve accomplished in this area. To that end Jeff, Renee, and Kevin will discuss why this must remain a priority for our profession.
Jeff Chapple, court administrator, O’Fallon Missouri Municipal Court, discusses the importance of access to justice in the court management profession.
Renee Danser, associate director of research and strategic partnerships, Access to Justice Lab, Harvard Law School, describes some of the key advancements in access to justice.
Kevin Bowling, retired court administrator, shares specifically why the concept of access to justice is important to him.
Public Trust and Confidence
Finally, the justice system as a whole is impacted by the trust and confidence that the public places in us. This is one of the core tenets of our profession that our country relies on. Restoring the public’s trust is a challenge that we must meet head on and without delay.
Access to justice is just one pillar of building trust and confidence in the courts that has been seriously eroded in recent years.
Sometimes our differences and challenges get in the way of building the confidence required for us to serve our constituents well. We must stand on our foundations to meet the challenges and stay committed to our principles.
My friends and colleagues, Janet, TJ, and Stacey, will talk about the importance of clinging to this commitment as we move into the future.
Janet Cornell, retired court administrator, discussed major advancements in the realm of public trust and confidence.
TJ BeMent, district court administrator, discussed why public trust and confidence are so very important in the field of judicial administration.
Stacey Fields, court administrator, Crestwood Municipal Court, shares her observations of current and future challenges in the realm of public trust and confidence.
I want to thank each of our friends for contributing their time, knowledge, and experience to this year’s address and representing the talent that exists in NACM and throughout the judiciary in our country.
We did it together this year focusing on these top priorities:
- Safety, Security, and Privacy;
- Access to Justice; and
- Public Trust and Confidence.
I hope you can see, as I have, the amazing work that we have done together this past year. I hope that you leave this year’s conference inspired and ready to help each other tackle whatever comes our way.
I’m so happy about how the membership, the Board, and the committees have stepped up to meet the challenges in all these areas. While we haven’t solved all the problems, but we’ve made progress, and for that I’m truly grateful.
The full speech can also be viewed on YouTube at https://youtu.be/9eggNFU9B6s?si=Nh6JB0FWo5k2c2_y.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jeffrey Tsunekawa is director of research and court service, Texas Office of Court Administration, and immediate past president of NACM.