What Does the Acronym DEI Mean to You?

By now, we all know that DEI stands for diversity, equity, and inclusion. However, what comes to mind when you hear the acronym DEI? Are your first thoughts in alignment with concepts such as “inclusive hiring practices, unconscious bias training, and increasing employee engagement”? Or do you think about concepts such as “quota-based hiring practices, reduced standards, and decreased employee morale through divisive conversations”? No matter your train of thought, you can find articles, blogs, and news stories that support your perception. Making affairs seemingly more complicated, DEI initiatives may be implemented at one organization vastly differently than they are at another organization. With so much information to digest, some court professionals may find it difficult to have an informed opinion of DEI. In reality, a robust DEI program aims to increase fairness, reduce bias, and promote inclusion within an organization’s policies, practices, and procedures.

As court professionals, we understand the necessity for the fair and impartial administration of justice. One of the ways we can achieve this is by having a diverse and inclusive workforce. DEI aside, all our courts have similar rules and guidelines in place such as the code of conduct, the code of civility, and the nondiscrimination policy. Many of these documents contain language about freedom from bias in decision-making processes and the prohibition of discrimination based on race, color, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, age, disability, religion, etc.

DEI programs that are strategically and carefully implemented will align with the rules and guidelines provided by any court. However, recent news around the acronym DEI has led some court professionals/DEI advocates to question whether they should use the acronym, fearing negative publicity and pushback. Depending on your personal DEI journey, your court, and your state, your opinions may fall into some variation of one of the following three camps:  

  1. The use of the acronym DEI is important because it sends a clear message to stakeholders that our courts are committed to fairness and equity within the justice system. 
  2. The use of the acronym DEI is not important if our policies, practices, and procedures are in alignment with best DEI practices.
  3. The use of the acronym DEI will hinder our ability to institute best DEI practices due to the controversy surrounding the acronym.  

No matter which camp you fall into, DEI best practices should remain a priority because they are in direct alignment with court rules and guidelines. This article does not aim to solve the DEI acronym conundrum. The purpose of this article is to provide court professionals with resources and ideas on starting or continuing their DEI journey. One of the first action items court leaders can tackle is to examine their hiring and promotion practices. These practices are a large part of what shapes the diversity that we see in our workforce. 

Inclusive hiring and promotion practices do not require a court to give unearned advantages or handouts to individuals based on their demographics. In fact, these practices are intended to give all applicants a fair chance at being hired or promoted. Leaders who intentionally seek to remove bias from the hiring and promotion process will have a better chance at hiring the best person for the position and bolstering diversity in their court. If you have not already reviewed it, please watch the presentation I conducted on inclusive hiring practices at NACM’s 2024 Midyear Conference in February.  

Other DEI best practices that court leaders and court professionals should consider, include:

  • Reading NACM’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Guide
  • Joining NACM’s DEI Committee and reviewing their list of resources for DEI education
  • Using the resources and education materials on the Blueprint for Racial Justice website
  • Reviewing NACM conferences pertaining to DEI topics
  • Using plain language on most written communications such as court forms, court websites, and employee evaluations
  • Reviewing and updating all human resources policies
  • Providing DEI training to all employees
  • Capturing data to address specific DEI issues related to your court

Keep in mind, DEI is a learning journey, it is not a destination. Being purposeful and strategic about implementing DEI best practices will add tremendous value to your court.


Creadell Webb is the chief diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) officer for the First Judicial District of Pennsylvania (FJD). Beyond the FJD, his leadership extends to the national stage. He sits on the Board of Directors for the National Association for Court Management (NACM) and serves as the vice chair of its DEI Committee, actively shaping the conversation on inclusion within court administration. He can be contacted at creadell@nacmnet.org.