Director's Report: 90 Days In

Cynthia H. Clanton, Director (her remarks from Feb. 26, Judicial Council Meeting in Atlanta)

It has been approximately 90 days since I was given the honor of serving as the 6th Director of the Judicial Council’s Administrative Office of the Courts.
 
I want you to know that I am having a wonderful experience – apart from breaking my right ankle at work. 
 


I have experienced so much positive energy from all of you in this room and I have the privilege of working with an incredible staff. 
 
I am reading this great book and urging everyone in our agency to read it – it is the book “Drive” which strives to get to the heart of what motivates people to do their best work. 
The author’s conclusion is that three main things drive humans to work: (1) Purpose; (2) Having enough autonomy; and (3) Mastery of a subject.  We are so lucky that we have “Purpose” easily within our reach.  Our JC/AOC strategic plan's mission is serving our court system to improve justice in GA.  That is a pretty great purpose. 
 
Making sure the staff at the AOC has enough mastery and autonomy is an ongoing goal of mine. I want to make sure that we stay focused on providing better service, better communication and being dedicated to professionalism.
 
Legislative Session:  Having a successful legislative session is one of our agency’s primary goals.

The legislative session started in January which is a new and very interesting experience for me, at least in the position of Director. It has been a steep learning curve, but we are all working very hard to have a successful session for the Judicial Council.
 
The dynamic duo of Presiding Justice P. Harris Hines and Justice Harold Melton leading our legislative and budgetary efforts this year has driven much success. They are supported by the steady and experienced team of Christine Butcher, Tracy Powell, Ashley Garner, James Rodatus, and LaShawn Murphy at the AOC.
 
We had a wonderful legislative reception with the State Bar after Chief Justice Thompson delivered the State of the Judiciary Address on January 27th. Approximately 50 legislators and state leaders, including the Attorney General and Bar President, attended. Many of the members of the Judicial Council were present as well.
 
My thanks to Thomas Worthy for having the idea to combine the Bar’s planned event that same day with ours as that ensured a really big, engaged, and hungry crowd.
 
Collaboration
We continue to collaborate with the Department of Revenue and Commissioner Lynn Riley in our Tax Intercept project launched in January. Eleven courts are participating in the pilot including the Municipal Court of Millen, State Court of Fulton and Superior Court of Bibb County. And more courts are asking to sign up.  So far we have collected over $5,000 and that number continues to grow as tax day is right around the corner.
 
Randy Dennis and his team are travelling to meet personally with courts to ensure their successful participation.  And the press so far has been all positive.  I want to thank Judge Gary Jackson for all his good points made in a recent AJC article. 
 
Communication
We have a new communication plan which was presented earlier this month to the Judicial Council Strategic Planning Implementation Committee.  The plan includes defining the audiences we serve and providing regular feedback as implementation begins.   The communication staff is exploring a host of improved and new tools (but inexpensive too) to provide better communication for all of us. 
 
You may have seen our recent Facebook posts and tweets highlighting the service of Justice Robert Benham and Justice Harold Melton, Supreme Court of Georgia; Judge Steve Jones, US District Judge; and Superior Court Judges Horace Johnson, Gail Tusan, and many others. Our continuing communication efforts highlight your many successes and leadership.
 
Our Research team, led by Christopher Hansard, and new employee Carla Hardnett, has conducted caseload reporting trainings for superior court clerks in 7 of the 10 Judicial Administrative Districts visiting Newnan, Hinesville, Elberton, Ellijay, Eatonton, Marietta, and Moultrie. This team has also conducted training at the Council of Probate and Magistrate Court Judges’ conferences. More are to come. All of this is our effort to improve communications and our mutual goal of case counts that reflect all the work you do.
 
We also have several new staff members in the office, including Tara Smith (who came to us as a legal assistant from Alabama).  Tara will be picking up Tracy’s previous responsibility of coordinating all the Judicial Council meetings.  My sincere thanks and appreciation to Tracy for her eye for detail and organizational skills which made all our past Judicial Council meetings a success.

If you are in the AOC’s office, be sure to check out our electronic bulletin board as we are featuring courthouses throughout the state. These photos emphasize our broad purposes of serving all judges – not just in Atlanta and the metro areas but judges in each city, county, circuit and district.
 
Now that I am able to drive again, I have resumed visiting judges in their courts.

Last month I attended a Family Treatment Court led by Judge Toller in Gainesville and met two young women – young enough to be my daughters – who have regained custody of their small children after conquering meth addictions with the help of this court. I also spent time in the Atlanta Municipal Court and plan to travel to see Judge John Sumner next month in Canton. All of this is my own effort to “keep it real”…that is… to see firsthand -  you – the judges – solving peoples’ problems.
 
I want to make sure that we are listening to you – the policy makers – so we can serve you better.
 
Closing
The AOC is a service agency. I think 2016 is off to a wonderful start. 

And while some people warn me that every new director has a honeymoon period, I am going to work hard to maintain a long term relationship for the AOC to be continuously serving you – the members of the Judicial Council and judiciary.

Before I sit down, I do want to congratulate Chief Justice Thompson for his Meritorious Service Award from Mercer Law School. We are all proud of you.

Thank you. 

Contact AOC

Administrative Office of the Courts 244 Washington Street, SW Suite 300 Atlanta, GA  30334

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