Courtside Conversation
Adrienne Eagan

Interview conducted and edited by Dawn Palermo

Adrienne Eagan

Adrienne Eagan is a court researcher in the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County, Maryland. The court has ten appointed judges. She joined NACM in 2018.

How did you get started in court administration?
After graduation, I began working as probation officer in Indiana and was on the Court Assisted Rehabilitation Effort (CARE) team for four years. As a CARE officer, I specialized in bio-psychosocial assessments while serving individuals on probation. I later became a drug treatment court case manager in Detroit, Michigan, where I was employed until I was given the opportunity in my current role as a court researcher. As a court researcher, I work closely with court administrators, department supervisors, colleagues, judges, and other courthouse personnel to compile and produce reports to accurately measure the effectiveness of multiple programs and to assist the court in creating and implementing new programs and technology.

What were you most surprised by after you became a court administrator?
Serving as a court researcher, I was surprised to learn that Maryland has five trial court researchers, as well as five researchers operating at the state level. We are able to collaborate on projects and work together to improve courts all over the state of Maryland.

Tell us about something that makes your court unique.
Our court launched a pilot program called the Anne Arundel Circuit Court Dog Program. This pilot program allows facility and therapy dogs in courts for child witnesses who are testifying or appearing in court in criminal or civil cases. It is a great program that provides support to a child in what can be an intimidating and unfamiliar setting.

What motivates you?
Any improvements that strive for better equality motivate me. Equality is a vital concept that should be present in any criminal justice setting. It motivates me professionally and personally on a daily basis.

How would you describe your management style?
I believe all “hands in” style and making team members feel valued. Obtaining ideas and designating tasks for everyone involved gives each member a sense of importance that is necessary in a productive environment. If employees feel valued, team members can work together in a more meaningful way.

Being a court administrator is an extremely stressful job with lots of challenges, filled with good and bad days. How do you go about recharging when you are having a bad day?
If I am having a bad day, I go outside or just simply take a walk. If I can get fresh air, I’m good to go. I also try to find something to laugh or smile about. I usually come back refreshed and ready to address the issue.

What advice do you have for newer court professionals?
I would tell them to value research. It is a newer concept within our arena but so much value and positive change can stem from research. Transparency can bring hesitant individuals on board and research can promote positive change and further support evidence-based practices.

How does your background shape the way that you do work?
My prior experience working as a probation officer and drug-treatment-court case manager provided me a foundation and understanding of the criminal justice system that has gotten me where I am today. I was able to manage a collaborative study with Indiana University and Purdue University Indianapolis while working as a CARE officer in Indiana. The study was an intensive evaluation of the substance abuse treatment and supervision services drug court participants received during their involvement in the program. I was able to administer the evaluations and see how much impact research truly had on programs. Fundamentally understanding the operations and functions of a courthouse prior to my role as a court researcher has been an immeasurable asset to me in my current position.

What makes you good at what you do?
I have a high level of patience. This is a new position in our court starting from the ground up, so organizing data can be a time-consuming process where patience in necessary. In addition, there can be some resistance with research and change in a courthouse setting. Understanding that it is productive to explain the steps you are taking and why that can lead to a more desired outcome is key. It is important to remember to be patient with the process.

What do you think distinguishes a great employee from the rest?
An individual’s attitude and work ethic stand out as identifiers of great employees. If an employee is a team player and working toward the big picture and the greater good, it makes them stand out. In addition, if they have genuine interest and concern for the work they are producing, it can make a world of difference.

What strategies have you found to be effective for promoting change?
Within court research, transparency is important in promoting change. If you want change to occur, you first need to be willing and able to explain the benefits that will follow once changes are implemented. Answering questions can ease concerns and lessen resistance surrounding improvements and outcomes you want to promote.

What do you see as some of the challenges courts are facing?
While numerous advancements have been made surrounding access to justice, there will always need to be up-to-date changes made to best serve the public. Sometimes, it is easy to forget the simple fact that the public are our customers. It can be an intimidating process for a civilian to enter a courthouse and have full knowledge of everything that is happening in their case. Access to justice is something that changes with technology as well, so it’s an area that needs significant attention.

What is something interesting about you that few people know?
I coach youth girls’ volleyball at club level, as well as volunteer coach youth volleyball with a local Girls and Boys Club.

Can you tell us about a challenge your court is facing?
Recently, our court updated the security policy, and with most changes resistance can be present. By simply reiterating that the updates are for protective measures and that the court will be more secure as a result has been very important. It is essential to take the time to answer questions and reassure the changes are worthwhile.

You are an Early Career Professional Committee member. Can you describe what that committee service has been like?
The ECP Committee gives you endless opportunities for involvement. You can volunteer at conferences, author newsletter articles, assist with service projects, etc. There is always something you can give your time to.

I would encourage others to get involved with the ECP Committee. It can be an intimidating field to join for young professionals, and this is a space where you can gain guidance and support from other young professionals. If you are intimidated by joining a committee, ECP is where you should start. The committee is warm and welcoming and will make you feel comfortable.


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