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2010 Director's Awards Recognize Federal Court Employees
The 2010 Director’s Awards have been awarded to four teams of federal court employees whose innovations have improved the way the courts do business; to three court managers who exemplify outstanding leadership; and to a court employee who demonstrated remarkable courage.
“I am continually impressed by the dedication and resourcefulness Judiciary employees bring to their work in the federal courts,” said Administrative Office Director Jim Duff. “The recipients of this year’s Director’s Awards demonstrate why our federal court system is admired and emulated around the world.”
The 2010 award recipients are honored in three categories:
The Director’s Award for Extraordinary Actions recognizes Judiciary employees for exhibiting bravery and concern for others, displaying creativity and resourcefulness, or ensuring that the Judiciary’s mission is met in the face of adverse conditions.
On the morning of January 4, 2010, Denise Saavedra, electronic court recorder operator, for the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada, stayed by the side of and provided comfort to Court Security Officer Stanley Cooper after he was fatally shot next to her by an assailant entering the Lloyd D. George Courthouse in Las Vegas, Nevada. Within a few days of this traumatic event, Saavedra returned to work and continued to perform at her usual high level. Her example was calming to others who struggled with the aftermath of the shooting, and assisted them in the return to their daily routines. Saavedra’s demonstration of courage and compassion is recognized by the Director’s Award for Extraordinary Actions.
The 2010 Director’s Award for Outstanding Leadership recognizes managerial employees who have led national efforts to improve the Judiciary, shown exemplary stewardship of resources, improved service or increased workforce productivity, or promoted public access to the Judiciary. The following three Judiciary employees received the award:
In a border district with the second highest felony caseload in the country, Chief Probation Officer Anita
López Chávez, of the District of New Mexico, has led several initiatives to enhance awareness of the issues affecting probation offices along the border and to increase the safety of her officers. She conserved resources with the consolidation of the probation and pretrial services offices, and proposed changes in policy that will better fund drug laboratory services for districts in the region. She organized three days of training in search and seizure for probation officers in her district, and hosted a multi-district meeting on the support needed to supervise offenders in Indian Country, which led to the creation of the Indian Country Steering Committee. She has established a comprehensive team approach to the supervision of sex offenders, effectively addressed staffing issues, and strengthened the district’s workforce initiatives. For these and many other examples of leadership, commitment, and excellence in the performance of her duties, Chávez received this year’s award.
The many contributions of Dana C. McWay, Bankruptcy Clerk for the Eastern District of Missouri, extend well beyond her own bankruptcy court and have earned her the Director’s Award. She served on the CM/ECF Working group to implement the system in the courts, and now serves as the chairperson of the Next Generation of Bankruptcy CM/ECF’s Clerk’s Office Functional Requirements Group, as well as a committee member for the district court CM/ECF Next Generation steering group. She identified the impact of and developed procedures to perform the new duties associated with the new bankruptcy reform legislation and she provided assistance to the Federal Judicial Center in updating its Judicial Code of Conduct training program, helping to create a website for trainers. McWay was instrumental in the creation and development of judicial learning centers at two Missouri courthouses, and created both the Pinckney Debt Program, to provide debt and bankruptcy education to high school students, and the Kids in Court program, which won the American Bar Foundation Award for Outstanding Children’s Education Program. She speaks frequently to community and student groups, mentors court personnel, and
has authored a number of legal textbooks and publications.
Robert W. Rack, Jr., Chief Pre-Argument Attorney, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, received the 2010 Director’s Award for the pivotal role he has played in creating, developing, and shaping mediation programs in the federal appellate courts. When Rack was hired 28 years ago to head the Sixth Circuit’s mediation office, there were few models for a settlement program at the appellate level. A study soon showed, however, that the Sixth Circuit’s program resolved more cases than an additional circuit judge would have and reduced disposition times. Ultimately, nine other federal circuits—and eventually many state appellate courts—adopted settlement programs that borrowed many features from the Sixth Circuit model. Rack’s leadership secured funding, administrative support, and regular training programs for circuit mediators nationwide.
Excellence in Court Operations: Court Technology
The Director’s Award for Excellence in Court Operations–Court Technology recognizes employees who have developed, identified, and/or deployed information management technologies and applications that meet critical court requirements. Those technologies or applications help the Judiciary operate with economy and efficiency and/or improve service Judiciary-wide.
The “Digital Recording Team” of IT Director Jeffrey Elmore, Assistant IT Director Tony Cirigliano and Programming Manager Bobby Boone, in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, and Luta K. Pleiss, Help Desk and Software Trainer in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nebraska, received the 2010 Director’s Award for Excellence in Court Operations. The team developed an interface for digital audio systems used in a pilot program to make digital audio recordings of court proceedings available online. The interface allows the smooth retrieval of data, regardless of the underlying proprietary system. Without the uniformity provided by a single, national interface—both internally for the courts and externally for users—the pilot would not have succeeded. The Team also developed a user manual of best practices to accompany national implementation of the system, and a Wiki for courts to share information and best practices. The Bankruptcy Court in the Southern District of New York used the interface to make digital hearings available to the public in two major auto manufacturer bankruptcies, with the result that the digital hearings were downloaded over 1,000 times.
The JERS Team of Kent Creasy, Director of Technology Services, and John Bain, Project Director, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina, created the innovative Jury Evidence Recording System. The system captures evidence electronically, as it is admitted, and allows jurors to use a touch screen kiosk to view the evidence during deliberations. JERS helps judges, attorneys and jurors use their time more effectively, and when the trial is over, appellate judges and litigants can use the JERS technology with the same advantages. Creasy and Bain designed, tested and implemented the system in their district, then collaborated with other districts to successfully implement JERS in other courts.
The OPERA Team is composed of William J. Isbell, IV, IT Programmer in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama, Kevin L. Beaulieu, network administrator in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maine, Eric Michael Swanson, programmer analyst in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Hampshire, and Senior U.S. Probation Officer Donald L. Martenz, Jr., in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey. They designed, developed, and implemented the web-based Offender Payment Enhanced Report Access (OPERA) system that provides probation officers with access to offender fine, restitution, and special assessment data recorded by district clerks’ offices. By letting the civil and criminal accounting modules of the Judiciary’s financial accounting system talk directly to the Probation and Pretrial Services Automated Case Tracking System through OPERA, officers can search for information themselves, at any time. Reports can be exported to a spreadsheet or a PDF document. OPERA soon will be accessible nationally on CM/ECF.
Excellence in Court Operations: Court Support
The Director’s Award for Excellence in Court Operations–Court Support recognizes employees who have facilitated customer service and/or improved court internal functions and procedures, while helping the Judiciary operate with economy and efficiency and/or improve service.
The Pontiac Team of Pro Se Law Clerk Cynthia D. Fears, Clerk of Court Pamela E. Robinson, Information Services Director Jeffrey A. Gustafson, Case Manager Martha Bailey, and Courtroom Deputy Kerin Burns in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois is recognized for the innovative and successful electronic-filing pilot project they developed for the Pontiac Correctional Facility. What was once a paper-heavy and labor intensive task of filing prisoner complaints or pleadings has been streamlined to a single scanned document, forwarded to the court for electronic filing. Time, paper, envelopes, copier supplies, maintenance fees and postage are saved and the prisoner case management process has been significantly improved. Other courts now have contacted the Team for information about starting similar programs.