2016 Director’s Awards Honor Court Employees
Eight federal Judiciary employees have received the 2016 Director’s Awards, given by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, to recognize outstanding performance in the federal courts nationwide.
The awards were granted in three categories: “Outstanding Leadership,” “Excellence in Court Operations/Court Administration,” and “Excellence in Court Operations/Mission Requirements.”
The recipients were nominated by colleagues based on career achievements and contributions to specific projects that have benefited their home courts and the federal Judiciary as a whole. The following are summaries of the recipients’ achievements:
Elizabeth "Libby" Smith is Clerk of Court for the District of Idaho's U.S. District and Bankruptcy Courts. As one of the few clerks in charge of a fully consolidated clerk’s office that serves both the district and bankruptcy courts, Smith has achieved significant efficiencies and savings, including over $500,000 in salary requirements through reductions in managerial level positions. A former chair of the District Clerks Advisory Group, she has also led strategic planning initiatives, which culminated in national training programs for court unit executives. Smith’s office provided support to 20 visiting judges in 2015-16, helping the District of Idaho cope with a shortage of Article III judges.
Teresa “Terry” Deppner, Clerk of Court for the Southern District of West Virginia, has been a national leader in Judiciary efforts to measure work and set effective staffing formulas. A former chair of the District Clerks Advisory Group and member of the Budget Finance Advisory Council, Deppner also has overseen innovations that have enabled the Southern District of West Virginia to administer 77,000 pending civil cases, many of them associated with multi-district litigation involving pelvic mesh devices. These innovations include evening and weekend staffing to accommodate case filings from East Coast to West Coast, as well as executing agreements with other courts for docketing services. From FY 2014-16, Deppner returned a total of $7.5 million in unused staffing allocations to the Administrative Office.
Phillip “Phil” Messer, Deputy Chief Probation Officer for the District of Kansas, has helped cut costs and improve supervision outcomes through evidenced-based decisions and practices. Messer has trained 37 of the Judiciary’s 94 district probation offices in use of the Decision Support System, a comprehensive analytical tool that taps national databases to support risk assessments, policy decisions, and the creation of statistical tables. Messer was among the original instructor group that opened the National Training Academy for probation officers in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2005. As deputy chief, he has educated collateral agencies and treatment providers about the Judiciary’s role in successfully reintegrating offenders into the community.
Excellence in Court Operations/Court Administration
Robin Tabora, Clerk of Court for the District of Connecticut, initiated a broad modernization of the court’s critical policies and internal control systems; and implemented best practices to improve service and increase workforce productivity. She also upgraded computing infrastructure, and because of her stewardship and foresight in the area of personnel management, her court was able to avoid layoffs and furloughs during sequestration. Under Tabora’s leadership, the court dramatically improved juror utilization rates and implemented a successful public outreach initiative about jury service. She also successfully spearheaded a number of extensive building projects, served as Court Chair of the Space and Security Advisory Council, and was a member of the Forms Working Group, and the Circuit Rent Budget Working Group. She is a longstanding member of the Federal Court Clerks Association.
Thomas Van Beaver, Human Resources Administrator for the U.S. District Court for the District of New Hampshire, conceived, developed and implemented an interactive web-based application called Leave it Forward eShare (LiFe). This national database enables local court unit leave administrators to better manage the Judiciary’s Voluntary Leave Transfer Program (VLTP), which allows employees to donate unused leave to workers who have exhausted their leave as a result of a medical emergency or a traumatic event. This innovation greatly expanded the reach and efficiency of VLTP, which previously had relied on a large volume of emails, as well as local bulletin boards to communicate leave requests.
Excellence in Court Operations/Mission Requirements
Two employees of the Eastern District of Missouri Bankruptcy Court—Dana McWay, Clerk of Court, and Brian Wooley, Systems Administrator—helped bankruptcy courts across the country to prepare for a national initiative to revise bankruptcy forms. Their anticipation and leadership are credited with minimizing confusion, eliminating duplicated effort, and smoothing the transition to the new forms by bankruptcy practitioners using the Case Management/ Electronic Case Files system.
Specifically, McWay and Wooley helped create a central repository of information that all federal Bankruptcy Courts could tap into. Working with other courts, they compiled a database of new forms in various formats, and programming files that would be required to file and manage the revised forms electronically. The database also stored training materials, detailed testing information, and an online forum for questions and comments from the Bankruptcy Court community.
Reginald D. Michael, Chief Probation Officer for the Southern District of Florida, has cut costs while also delivering services more efficiently. From FY 2012-2016, he voluntarily reallocated or returned a total of $5.8 million in unused funding to either his district's Clerk of Court or to the Administrative Office. A reduction in leased office space lowered Judiciary rent costs in Michael’s district by about $2.6 million during this same period. His office has been a leader in the implementation of Evidence Based Practices. Local office initiatives have included a broad use of specialized caseloads to effectively supervise about 1,000 low-risk offenders with fewer resources, while enabling more intensive supervision and cognitive behavioral instruction to assist higher-risk cases. His staff has also developed and implemented a Leadership Development Program for their office in the Southern District of Florida. Based on a Federal Judicial Center program, the initiative nourishes future leaders so they can effectively replace retiring personnel.
Related Topics: Awards & Honors