In the court system, what do early career professionals and more seasoned supervisors have in common? At the Pima County Consolidated Justice Court (PCCJC), the answer is easy. Both groups view judicial administration as a career and not simply as a way to pay the bills.
PCCJC is a limited-jurisdiction court located in downtown Tucson, Arizona. The court represents seven out of nine precincts in Pima County. Seven justices of the peace (JPs), each elected for a four-year term, operate from the justice court. JPs preside over civil lawsuits under $10,000, tenant and landlord disputes, small-claims cases, misdemeanor and civil traffic offenses, and other matters.
In Pima County, JPs are supported by a staff of dedicated individuals, from the call center to court security. As of August 1, 2023, the court employed 92 individuals and processed more than 63,000 cases since the beginning of the year. The court’s management team consists of seasoned professionals and many who are just starting out in judicial administration.
“I wish I had known the full process of case processing and the court,” said Luz Rivera, records supervisor. “I think knowing more of the process would have helped me provide better customer service for customers and helped me understand the whole process.”
PCCJC analyst Sam Guy cited the court’s case management system (CMS) as one the biggest learning curves he encountered when starting his career less than six months ago.
“We have a lot of power over people’s experiences in the legal system,” he said. “It can be sobering to think of the effects one mistake can have.”
Like the newest employees, many of the court’s managers, supervisors, and leads launched their careers on the ground floor and worked diligently to grow their understanding of the court. Many current leaders began in customer service and were unaware of the different case types handled by the court before their first day. Some believed a degree or specialized training was required.
PPCJ court operations manager Ralph Garcia said legal terminology proved challenging for him when he first began his career. This year he celebrated 22 years with the court.
“I started when I was 18 and had no formal training to prepare for the role,” Garcia said.
Many in the management team, whether experienced or early in their occupations, indicated a desire to further develop their writing proficiency and public-speaking skills as they progress in their vocations. PCCJC administrative assistant Ally Meadows, who’s been with the court less than two years, said she’s continuously working to improve her personal leadership skills.
“I want to someday become a supervisor and I need to develop myself as a person,” Meadows said.
PCCJC human resources supervisor Charity Bender has been with the court since 1999 and said she continues to develop her public-speaking skills.
“I have come a long way, from being terrified to teach a class, to would only co-teach a class, to being comfortable doing it on my own,” Bender said. “Since this is a struggle for me, I find ways to put myself in uncomfortable situations to keep honing this skill. I also have learned to give myself grace. I have learned that if I’m authentic with the audience they will give me grace in return.”
Many on the administration team are currently enrolled in the court’s Leadership Academy or have already graduated from the program. Court leaders are also enrolled in Arizona Court Supervisor (ACS), Arizona Court Manager (ACM), and Arizona Court Executive (ACE) classes. Networking with outside organizations, such as the National Association for Court Management (NACM), and continuing their education, including an upcoming Arbinger Institute class on Outward Performance, help the leadership team expand their knowledge.
The National Association for Court Management’s Early Career Professionals subcommittee meets monthly on the fourth Wednesday at 1 p.m. Eastern Time. All meetings are held over Zoom. Early career professionals are defined as less than 40 years of age and/or with ten or fewer years of experience in the court system. Find more at nacmnet.org.