Courtside Conversation
Johnny Tse

Interview Conducted and Edited by Dawn Palermo

Johnny Tse

  • Court Administrator, Buckeye Municipal Court, Buckeye, Arizona
  • Number of judges at court: 1 (Appointed by city council)
  • NACM member since 2013

How did you get started in court administration?
I started working in the courts as a fines management officer in Maricopa County Justice Courts when fine collection was a new thing.

What were you most surprised by after you became a court administrator?
I was surprised by the importance of politics (in a good way) in budgeting. Professional relationships and sound financial reasons were important in getting the budget to support court operations.

Tell us about something that makes your court unique. 
We are a municipal court serving one of America’s fastest growing communities. Buckeye, Arizona is now listed as the number-one fastest-growing city in the country according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The City of Buckeye moved up from the fifth-fastest-growing city last year. The city is likely to stay in the top 10 for years to come. With a planning area of over 640 square miles, it is only 5 percent built out today. From July 1, 2017 to July 1, 2018, Buckeye saw an 8.5 percent increase in population, reaching 74,370.

What motivates you? 
I am motivated by serving my team. I work to make my court the best it can be through training and development. To prepare employees for adversity/change, training is a valuable option. I take the time to determine the employee’s strengths and utilize resources to build upon them. I make the employees feel valued by investing my time in developing and growing my future leaders. This can be accomplished by believing in developing employees through carefully planned and focused training. It is being proactive in the training needs of the court and the clerk. It is working in tandem to improve the knowledge, understanding, and commitment of current staff and staff of the future. Training and taking steps to prepare for change and adversity will allow your organization to be successful in facing the challenges. Being committed to your employees with carefully designed training and personal development will create professional employees committed to the vision and mission statements of your organization.

As we achieve our goals, we celebrate together. This serves a motivator to keep moving forward to making our court the best.

How would you describe your management style?
Servant Leader. My job is to make the employees’ job easier. I can achieve this by caring about their lives, getting funding to support court operations, and making schedules to ensure that employees have training opportunities to improve their professional and personal lives. I follow Sir Richard Branson’s approach of “train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.”

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?
I recharge by remembering the good days. I remember the days that go well. I remember the days when we hit our goals.

What advice do you have for newer court professionals? 
Please take the time to visit other courts and learn their best practices to incorporate into your court. Treat your co-workers like family. You will be spending much of your time working with them.

What do you see as some of the challenges courts are facing?
Some of the challenges that courts are facing are technology changes, political attacks, and funding limitations. We are proactive in our budgeting process by understanding the financial state of our funding authority, looking at alternative funding options, interaction with others during the budget process, educating the funding authority on the importance of proper staffing, and using a matrix to prepare our budget requests. On the technology side, we are looking at adding a Voice First that would allow interface with Alexa for access to case information for the public.

What is something interesting about you that few people know? 
I enjoy having aquariums. It is not a secret since most of the team also have aquariums in their lives.  Our fish collection runs from guppies to cichlids. We also have a collection of miniature shrimps.

How did you first get involved in NACM?
I joined NACM when I was working on a project and needed more information. NACM was the resource with information for my project.

You are an active NACM committee member. Can you describe what that committee service has been like?
Yes, I am. Committee service is a wonderful way to learn more about the judiciary, fellow court professionals, and new ideas. I serve on the Communications Committee. 

What would you say to some contemplating getting involved in NACM?
My suggestion for anyone contemplating getting involved in NACM is join and learn together with dedicated court professionals. We are all committed to make the courts a better place.


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