Developing Leadership Programs for Court Personnel: Multifaceted Models in Arizona, Missouri and Ohio

NASJE Conference Session on Monday, October 5, 2015
Article by Rob Godfrey (UT)

This session covered different ways that the judicial education departments from three different states have gone about creating leadership programs within their education systems. First, Jeff Schrade, Education Services Division Director for the Arizona Supreme Court Administrative Office of the Courts, asked “Will your succession plan work?” Looking at internal versus external hiring and promoting of employees, he offered some nation-wide facts for consideration.

External hires are 61% more likely to be fired and 21% more likely than internal hires to leave a job on their own accord. They are more likely to get lower marks in performance reviews during their first two years on the job. 66% of senior managers hired from outside usually fail within the first 18 months.

Schrade said that buy-in from the top was critically important and with that in mind, the Arizona Leadership Programs created a diverse court leadership institute using the following tiered competencies:

  • Executive +
  • Executive
  • Manager
  • Supervisor

This model allows employees to be inserted at the appropriate level according to where they were at the time.

In the Ohio Supreme Court system, Margaret Allen, Education Program Manager, says they utilize Institute for Court Management (ICM) courses as a basis for curriculum. Arizona also utilizes ICM. Ohio and Arizona focus on organizational management, using six courses total or two per year for three years. They developed an application form that lists desired minimal skills to discern qualified applicants. The forms are reviewed by an ICM committee and certified court executives. The supervisor series consists of nine courses or three per year and focus on management of personnel.

In Missouri, State Court Administrator, Anthony Simones, found early in his tenure that the clerks had low morale, work was substandard, and turnover was high. He felt the first goal was to turn around the clerks’ view of themselves. He relied heavily on the court clerk education committee. The Missouri Court Management Institute developed courses on case processing, leadership skills and professionalism.

Missouri started with small time allotment for classes and added more as demand grew. Clerks can complete their six courses in one year and the number per class is limited to 25. Clerks learn to think like professionals by being challenged to think like professionals. Tactics for classes include simulations and exercises designed to develop leadership skills. In the supervision course, they are constantly asked, “How would you handle this?” In the professionalism course, the mantra is, “What they do in the classroom is what they do in the courtroom.” Simones believes in treating clerks as professionals. He wants to make courses as demanding and interactive as those in other areas.