Courtside Conversation

A Chat with NACM “Charter Members”

Celebrating those who have been NACM Members since 1985 when NACM was founded.

*Interviewees were asked various questions about NACM and their long-standing membership.

G. Terry Aragon
Jeffrey M. Arnold
Jean Atkin
Kent Batty*
P. Mark Berkshire
Kevin J. Bowling*
David K. Boyd
David A. Cable
Sheila Gonzalez Calabro
Alan Carlson
John A. Clarke
Judith Ann Cramer
Donald Cullen
Guy A. Ferguson
John D. Ferry, Jr.

John M. Greacen
Gordon M. Griller
L.M. “Pat” Jacobs IV
F. Dale Kasparek, Jr.
Peter C. Kiefer
J. Randolph Kitchen, Jr.
Charles L. Kjos
Rick J. Lewis
Linda D. Lovelace*
Leesa A. McNeil
Norman H. Meyer, Jr.*
Gregg M. Moore
Ronald G. Overholt

Larry D. Reiner
Marcus W. Reinkensmeyer
Alan Slater
Harvey E. Solomon
Michael A. Tozzi
Ronald D. Warfield
Mark A. Weinberg
Bob Wessels
Karen A. Wick
Tamara D. Wolfe*

Why did you stay involved in NACM? How do you think NACM has most significantly impacted the profession of court management over the last 30+ years?

Tamara D. Wolfe, Englewood Municipal Court Administrator, Colorado

NACM has continued to evolve and provide valuable resources and training not always readily available to local jurisdictions. Your ability to partner and network with a multitude of organizations extends the educational opportunities just that much more. NACM includes a cross-section of members and, therefore, one can always find information relevant to their needs. It is this seeking of best practices and the sharing of that information that has impacted the court profession regardless of court size.

What do you consider the most valuable benefit of being a NACM member?

Norman H. Meyer, Jr., Clerk of Court, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, New Mexico (Retired)

I think the most valuable benefit of being a NACM member is the opportunity to network and learn from a wide variety of my professional peers. This happens, for example, by reading the NACM publications, experiencing education programs (at conferences and online), and participating in committees.

What is your favorite memory of a NACM event?

Linda D. Lovelace, Court Administrator, Area I, II, and III County Courts, Butler County, Ohio

I was on the board of one of the parent organizations, National Association for Court Administration (NACA), which represented the smaller jurisdictions around the United States. Many members of NACA were afraid that if we merged with National Association of Trial Court Administrators (NATCA) we would lose our representation to large urban courts. There was much negotiation and compromise that went on in that transition committee prior to the first board meeting of the new organization called NACM, the National Association for Court Management. It was a thrill to be a part of such a prestigious group of people, from the court system in Los Angeles to the rural courts in Mississippi, who were part of the first NACM Board. Each board member had a voice, and each board member had a vote. We voted on everything from the organization’s structure, colors, and logo, as well as how many times a year we would meet, and how we would ensure that all court representatives could attend meetings if they wanted to. Yes, 1985 was an exciting year when NACM was founded in Fort Worth, Texas. Court management took a huge leap forward for the betterment of the future of our nation’s court system. Being a part of that will always be the greatest NACM memory for me.

Why did you join NACM?

Kent Batty, Court Administrator, Arizona Supreme Court (Retired)

I probably joined NACM, more than 35 years ago when it was still NATCA, due to the influence of Harry Lawson, a mentor to me and many others, who was the director of the University of Denver Law School master’s program in judicial administration (as it was then known). Harry was also Colorado’s state court administrator and a strong advocate for the professionalization of the field, to which he believed NATCA was becoming a major contributor. At the time NATCA was primarily composed of elected clerks, mostly from limited-jurisdiction courts, whereas NACM was more appointed administrators, mostly from general-jurisdiction courts and a few, very large limited-jurisdiction courts. 

My membership really enhanced my understanding of who these strange beings—court administrators—really were. I guess I figured I’d fit right in! I joined, since I knew by then that it was the organization to do the most for improving the knowledge and skills of those in our field. 

What advice do you have for newer court professionals?

Kevin J. Bowling, Court Administrator, 20th Circuit and Ottawa County Probate Courts

Keep in mind, I do not like to give advice because I feel like I am still learning and growing as a court professional. That said, here are a few things I have learned during a 40-year career with the courts.

  1. Be positive! Enjoy your profession and know that your personal enthusiasm about working in the judicial branch can be contagious. On the other hand, negativity can be toxic in a court environment; keep in mind unhappy employees don’t quit their job—they quit their boss.
  2. Be a lifelong learner. Our work environment is constantly changing, and as leaders in the court system we have to be conversant with the continual updates in law, court rules, legislation, policy, etc.
  3. Understand the history of the courts in the U.S. As court leaders we need to know where we came from and why the judicial system is important to the fabric of our society. It has been reported that a majority of U.S. adults cannot even name the three branches of government! We need to understand our professional history and be able to articulate the importance of what we do for the public, court users, and our court employees.
  4. Be respectful of judges, attorneys, litigants, and other court participants. Staff are always observing our actions and demeanor. How we act becomes an important guidepost for others. Throughout our government we need greater focus on civility. Do some reading on procedural fairness.
  5. Continually focus on how to improve your court operations. Be aware of best practices and beware of the mindset that “we’ve always done it that way” to avoid getting stuck.
  6. Conduct a workforce analysis. Understand your staff demographics and your staff strengths—then lean into those strengths. Focus on having “the right people, with the right skills, in the right place, at the right time.”
  7. Be accountable. It’s important to know if your court is performing well. Determine a few critical performance measures and monitor these measures on a regular basis. Keep the judges and other key court leaders informed about performance issues.
  8. Effectively leverage available technology. As technology continues to change and improve, it’s important to be innovative and determine how you can use these tools to improve public service. The JTC Court Component model maybe a good place to begin.
  9. Create/maintain a strategic plan. Remember the old biblical admonition: Proverbs 29:18—“Without a vision, the people perish.” Court leaders need a clear path forward, and court employees need an understandable, congruent mission to support.
  10. Maintain your personal/professional integrity. Be honest and trustworthy in all interactions with others. Do not “over-promise.” If you agree to do something, get it done. This is something that can take a lifetime to build and an instant to destroy. If/when you make a mistake, be prepared to admit the mistake and look for positive ways to move forward.
  11. Take care of yourself. Adequate sleep, healthy eating, exercise, and allowing time for you and your family is important to maintain a life balance that will help you be more focused and more effective as a court leader.

What do you see as some of the most significant challenges courts are facing today?

Kent Batty, Court Administrator, Arizona Supreme Court (Retired)

As for the challenges facing courts today, there are several and, unfortunately, some (like reliable, non-revenue-based funding) have been with us for decades. I’ll only mention a couple of them. 

Courts have been challenged for many years around how to best deal with persons with mental illness who become involved (some would say “entangled”) in the justice system. In just the last three years or so, courts have begun to address, more effectively, ways to improve the justice system experience of those with mental illness and their loved ones. There are many difficult-to-address barriers to real improvements in this area, but meeting that challenge will make the justice system better, fairer, and more helpful to such persons and families. 

The challenge of more effectively dealing with those with mental illness links to the broader challenge of addressing the overpopulation of jails and prisons with those whom we’ve begun to recognize should not be there as long or perhaps at all. This includes a wide spectrum of individuals, from the poor who can’t afford the lowest bonds to secure their release to those convicted under harsh, mandatory sentencing (largely for drug offenses) laws enacted in the 1990s. While this is a system-wide challenge, courts are certainly key players. 

A nearly existential challenge to courts today is the public perception that courts, especially judges, have become political entities where political calculations play a significant role in court outcomes. This view, of course, has been substantially reinforced by recent news-making federal bench appointments and by a handful of state court decisions or “incidents.” Changing such perceptions will take many years, I fear. 

Courts remain challenged by meeting public expectations for service, especially to self-represented litigants. But the scope of the challenge extends to finding ways to address the public’s demand for technological “access” to court processes. While many limited-jurisdiction courts are finding ways to meet this aspect of the challenge, at the general-jurisdiction level, finding the balance point between what the public wants (as to access) and what courts can properly and securely offer is a significant challenge.

What would you recommend to a NACM member who is considering NACM committee work?

Norman H. Meyer, Jr., Clerk of Court, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, New Mexico (Retired)

A NACM member who is considering committee work should volunteer for one (or more!) committees in an area of personal/professional interest. This will provide opportunities to learn and make a difference for other members and our profession. I’ve always been interested in the areas of ethics, membership services, and educational programming, so I’ve served in those areas year after year.

How do you stay up to date on current affairs of the court profession?

Kevin J. Bowling, Court Administrator, 20th Circuit and Ottawa County Probate Courts

  1. As a Charter Member of NACM, it seems the first thing court leaders should do is maintain your NACM membership and get involved. NACM conferences, committees, publications, etc., are important ways to develop a professional network and learn from others. Use of the new NACM Core is also an extremely useful tool to stay current.
  2. Be curious! Observe/learn about court operations in other jurisdictions (including federal, state, local, tribal, international).
  3. Get involved with the state/regional court management association in your locality.
  4. Be responsible for your own professional development (e.g., university courses, ICM seminars, state/local judicial-branch education opportunities, reading). There may be personal costs of time/money, but it helps to think about it as an investment in yourself.
  5. Develop a network of court professionals, stay in touch, and compare ideas.
  6. Take advantage of resources through court-related organizations (e.g., NCSC, NJC, SJI, IAALS, NCJFCJ, private foundations with justice-sector projects).
  7. When possible, teach/present on court-related topics (the preparation for teaching is a great motivator to learn about current developments).
  8. In addition to court-related current affairs, I find it important to engage in regular “environmental scanning” from private-sector leadership and business sources to learn what non-court “thought-leaders” are doing to improve their operations.
  9. Don’t underestimate the educational power of the Internet (e.g., “Dr. Google,” TED Talks, YouTube).

What do you think NACM’s impact will be in the future?

Linda D. Lovelace, Court Administrator, Area I, II, and III, County Courts, Butler County, Ohio

NACM will continue to be a vital resource for all of us in court management. NACM is a future-thinking organization that will provide insight into the national trends that impact the nation’s courts. NACM, along with the National Center for State Courts, will provide vital educational support and resources for years to come.

Thank you for your continued support and membership in NACM.


Dawn Palermo is the judicial administrator at Jefferson Parish Juvenile Court, Louisiana.