Editor’s Note

The Power of Pumpkin Spice

By the time this issue of Court Manager goes live, your Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte (PSL, as the kids call it) will have gone cold (and probably old), only to be replaced with eggnog McFlurries and candy-cane-topped Frappuccinos. But until then, I can’t help but loathe the folks who claim, “Unless it’s pumpkin spice, I don’t give a frapp.” I mean, when else has a Starbucks beverage signaled the start of an entire season? The first cup of that stuff tells me it is time to haul my patio furniture back to the basement and pull out a handful of plastic skeletons, tired garland made of fake corn, berries, and leaves, and clearance-aisle ceramic pumpkins with cheeky sayings like, “Give Thanks!” and “FALL in Love.” Needless to say, I’m not a full-on-fall superfan. I think the thing that annoys me the most are the countless fall-themed products that welcome the season. Did you know there are pumpkin-spiced Pringles, hummus, Twinkies, and toothpaste? What about pumpkin-spice soap-on-a-rope or pumpkin-spice beard oil? Yesterday, I found pumpkin-spice dog shampoo and pumpkin-spice auto-detailing spray–no joke. The topper for me was the “Pumpkin Spray on Spice.” Rather than using real spices, you can spray the flavor of pumpkin spice onto whatever it is you’re using. Kind of like perfume, you can coat your food in this wafting scent. Mind blown.

All this pumpkin-spice nonsense got me thinking, where did the PSL craze begin? How long has this trend that signifies the end of sun-shiny days filled with barbecues and bratwurst been around?

A quick Google search revealed that, indeed, Starbucks is responsible for birthing the trend in 2003, while Dunkin Donuts followed closely behind. What’s more unbelievable is that Starbucks has been moving up the annual release date for their infamous PSL. In fact, this year latte-loving friends waited just until August 27th to geek out on the gourd-centric beverage. Incidentally, the chain also added its first new pumpkin drink in 16 years, a Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew. The PSL has blown up to become Starbucks’ most popular seasonal drink of all time, with more than 200 million sold in its first decade on the menu. This trend has carried over to so many consumer products with those familiar sweet flavors hitting shelves while it’s still the dog days of summer. Clearly, this trend is here to stay, much to my pumpkin spice-dismay.

Speaking of trends and the origins of such, this issue of Court Manager features some emerging trends and some familiar ones, which like the PSL, continue to be a repeated theme at conferences and in court management literature alike. In the article on High Performance Courts (the second in a three-part series), the authors detail the concepts of the “Framework,” which can equip court leaders to create a court that has high-quality administration of justice. Developed in 2010, the Framework is still being used today to help court managers approach difficult questions from many perspectives. Two other articles, “Framing Accessible Justice Through Procedure” and “What’s Fair Is FARE: Arizona’s Path to Collections Compliance,” showcase a few other continuing trends in case management: achieving access to justice and promoting best practices regarding court collections. On the other hand, the article on the “Whole-of-Government Approach” is a new concept to me. This article cautions that courts must get ready for a riskier world today as sophisticated adversaries are using weapons of mass “disruption” to disarm our justice operations.

As you spend this season scraping up your aging Jack O’Lanterns, whose toothy smiles have turned to toothless frowns, only to be replaced with a younger family of snowmen with frozen carrot noses, I challenge you to think about what trends will continue to repeat themselves in court management and what emerging issues will create future trends on which we must focus our attention.