Courtside Conversation

Louisiana Hosts the NACM Annual Conference

Laissez les Bon Temps Rouler

(Let the Good Times Roll)

Editor’s Note: NACM’s next annual conference is scheduled to be held in New Orleans, July 12-16, 2020. Court Manager would like to help you get acquainted with some of our members in the great state of Louisiana.

The National Association for Court Management is monitoring the situation involving the Coronavirus. At this time, NACM is moving forward with its annual conference this summer as scheduled and will continue to monitor the guidance from national, state, and local public health professionals. Our top priority is the health and safety of all attending our annual conference. Updates will be provided should anything change. We look forward to seeing you in New Orleans!

1. How did you get started in court administration?

“Some say that I became judicial administrator of Orleans Parish Juvenile Court because it is the only job I had not held in the juvenile court. Throughout my legal career I have been involved with the Orleans Parish Juvenile Court. I have served as a public defender, hearing officer/traffic referee, clerk of court, judge pro tempore, and judicial administrator since 2012. In 2010 I was appointed by the Louisiana Supreme Court to serve as judge pro tempore. The experience provided me the insight into the workings of the court. Following my appointment, I was asked to stay on as clerk of court. As clerk of juvenile court, I was placed in charge of the operations of the court and the staff of the clerk’s office. While serving as clerk of court, the judicial administrator left the court. I was hired as judicial administrator in 2012. Since then I’ve never looked back. I believe that my trajectory to administration and my appreciation for the work was shaped by holding so many different positions within the court.”
Ranord Darensburg, Orleans Juvenile Court/New Orleans

“I was originally hired by my court not as an administrator but fresh out of college with a BS in computer science as an IT professional. The running joke with my judges at that time was that this court was limited by our city on what positions could be filled. Technically, there was not an IT slot for our court. The only position that was open was janitor class 4. So even though I was hired as an IT professional, worked up and was promoted to a court administrator, and even was verified in judicial administration through Michigan State University, my senior judge always reminded me that I was hired in as ‘janitor class 4.’ Sure keeps me from feeling too big for my britches. Also, to the delight of my senior judge, when we moved into our brand new courthouse in 2013, the upstairs janitor closet is next door to my office. My judge says it keeps me close to my roots.”
Tim Leger, Lake Charles City Court/Lake Charles

“I was a central staff attorney at my court when the court administrator/clerk of court position became vacant. I knew the court judges and personnel, but very little, if anything, about court administration. When I decided to interview for the position, I researched and read everything I could get my hands on about court administration and state courts, including the many wonderful resources provided by NACM. I had several judges tell me I ‘hit the ball out of the park’ during my interview because I was so well prepared. A decade later, NACM is still a vital resource. My new court leadership values educational and networking opportunities, so I plan to renew my membership in NACM and stay active in Louisiana Court Administrators Association.”
Lillian Richie, Second Circuit Court of Appeal/Shreveport

“I was working for the court as court reporter for 13 years when the court administrator position was created. Since I had obtained my Master of Business Administration and Master of Arts in industrial/organizational psychology by the time this position came open, the judges considered my interest in the position. The profession was relatively new at the time, and I faced many obstacles in validating the position with our court. I got involved with NACM and served on the board and ultimately as its president. I also received my fellowship with the Institute for Court Management, all of which helped substantiate the importance of court administration.”
Suzanne Stinson, 26th JDC (ret.), Bossier City

2. How did you first get involved in NACM?   

“When I first started to work at the court as a judge’s secretary, my administrator talked me into going with her to a Louisiana Court Administrators Association meeting. Soon after, I was promoted to assistant administrator at my court. While attending Louisiana Court Administrators Association meetings, I heard Susie Stinson give reports on NACM and what it offered and how it had helped her throughout the years. I decided I needed to be a member of NACM and see what NACM was all about. From there I have attended several conferences, as well as gone online to the many publications they offer. They have a tool for everything. NACM is always changing and always updating/staying with the changes going on in the court system.”
Sara Brumfield, 21st JDC, Amite

3. What do you think are the greatest challenges that smaller/district/rural/ETC courts face?

“Rural courts face many unique challenges, but the greatest challenges continue to be limited resources for the court and the court users and geographical distances. Some of our court users could potentially travel an hour for court appearances or to participate in specialty courts. Limited resources, including public transportation, mental health treatment, and substance abuse treatment, continue to plague rural courts.”
George Coxen, 21st JDC, Amite

“Lately, it has been finding good interpreters for the ever-growing population of Spanish people moving into our district.  Also, certified court reporters aren’t plentiful in our rural district. Most of them will be retiring soon and I don’t know what we will do.  Lastly, our police jurors telling us they have no more money and our 60-to-70-year-old buildings are becoming a major problem and falling down around us.”
Pam Dance, 3rd JDC, Ruston

4. How has your NACM membership helped you address some of these challenges?

“NACM is a valuable tool in addressing these challenges. Attending NACM conferences allows court leaders to improve operations by sharing ideas and approaches. Conferences also allow peer-to-peer conversations and learning from other NACM members. Vendors at these conferences have been very helpful to our courts in addressing issues with geographical distances. Our court has implemented videoconferencing to reduce inmate transport and space issues at our courts. With ideas discovered at NACM conferences, we are currently exploring other opportunities to take advantage of videoconferencing. Also, our residents can pay traffic tickets and fines online to eliminate some of the travel required to attend court sessions. Another valuable tool is Our court leaders consistently refer to the resources available on this site.”
George Coxen, 21st JDC, Amite

“My involvement in NACM began with Scott Griffith. As a new administrator, I was interested in learning all that I could about the position and how Orleans Parish Juvenile Court could improve operations and efficiency. Scott introduced me to the NACM website and suggested that I attend the next NACM conference. I believe that my first conference was in Birmingham. I was immediately struck by the value of membership. The information I have been able to gather through NACM has allowed me to improve court policies and procedures and to more effectively manage the court and the court staff.”
Ranord Darensburg, Orleans Juvenile Court, New Orleans

5. Tell us about something that makes your court unique. 

“Even though all our Louisiana Court Administrators Association members hail from either the supreme court, courts of appeal, district, city, parish, or municipal court, the one thing that makes our court unique is that we are Cajuns. Historically, Acadians migrated primarily from the Vendee region in France to the Nova Scotia region in Canada. Due to unrest and persecution, the Acadians were exiled to France, the Caribbean, Britain, and British colonies. Our current-day “Cajuns” came from these groups that settled in the Louisiana state. . . .[T]his union of cultures, French Louisianans and Acadians, brings us to our present state of Louisiana. Unlike other states, instead of counties we have parishes, probably from deep roots within the Catholic faith. Most importantly, our civil code derives from the Napoleonic Code instead of an English-based legal system. While our way of life in the courts mirror many of our American counterparts, there are subtle differences in how we process legal matters that make us a unique court system. Coupled with this uniqueness is the Cajun way of holding on to tradition while making the most of the present. Today, one of our greatest challenges is to modify and unify our legal system that is a non-unified court system into a system that is relevant and needed in the 21st century. To this goal, NACM has provided a unique opportunity to learn as we transform our court system.”
Tim Leger, Lake Charles City Court, Lake Charles

6. The Louisiana Court Administrators Association is very active in the state. What special events do they hold, and how do they assist their members?  

 “Louisiana Court Administrators Association offers an annual spring and fall conference, which is in conjunction with Louisiana District Judges’ Association Conference. Having these annual events together allows administrators to directly network not only with other court administrators but other judges. It also presents an availability of court administrators to share information with courts/judges who don’t have administrators. These judges notice our efforts and what Louisiana Court Administrators Association is offering to administrators. Louisiana Court Administrators Association also holds an annual workshop in which the agenda is focused on ‘events’ that are being addressed in our state’s courts. Since administrators range from various courts, there is always a topic that will touch on recent trends not only in Louisiana but across the nation. In addition, the workshop provides a “safe” environment in which administrators can convey their concerns to other court administrators in a place where there’s understanding and problem techniques immediately available.”
Hope LaFleur, 9th JDC, Alexandria

“Louisiana Court Administrators Association offers a workshop every year.  Having this annual event allows us to directly network with other administrators. The trainings are great, and I have learned so much throughout the years that I would have never learned without it. I was appointed a mentor from the beginning, and I don’t know what I would have done without him! Also, the annual spring and fall conference, which gives us another avenue of learning and networking with other people having the same problems we have and learning how to handle them.  By being a member of Louisiana Court Administrators Association, I was verified in judicial administration through Michigan State University. This was a five-year course, and Louisiana Court Administrators Association was so helpful in giving me time to finish it.”
Pam Dance, 3rd JDC, Ruston

Column Contributors

Sara F. Brumfield, Court Administrator, 21st Judicial District Court (Amite)

  • 9 judges
  • Became administrator in 2002/started with the court in 1987 as a judge’s secretary
  • NACM member since 2003

George R. Coxen, Jr., Executive Assistant, 21st Judicial District Court (Amite)

  • 9 judges
  • NACM member since 2010

Pam Dance, Judicial Administrator, 3rd Judicial District Court

  • 3 judges
  • Promoted to judicial administrator in 2003

Ranord J. Darensburg, JD, RSW, Orleans Juvenile Court

  • 5 judges
  • Judicial administrator since 2012
  • NACM member since 2016

Hope LaFleur, Court Administrator, 9th Judicial District Court

  • 7 judges
  • NACM member since 2001

Tim Leger, Court Administrator, Lake Charles City Court

  • 2 judges
  • NACM member since 2002

Lillian Evans Richie, Judicial Administrator/Clerk of Court, Second Circuit Court of Appeal

  • 7 judges
  • NACM member since 2001, Louisiana Court Administrators Association member since 2010, prior NACM member (budgetary reasons)

Courtney Schroeder, Deputy Judicial Administrator, Jefferson Parish Juvenile Court

  • 3 judges
  • NACM member since 2018

Suzanne Stinson, Court Administrator (ret.), 26th Judicial District Court

  • 6 judges
  • NACM member since 1994


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