The Judicial Administration Fellows began the New Year with a two-day field and academic seminar at the Orange County Superior Court. On Thursday morning, we arrived at the Orange County Community Court for an introduction and tour led by Collaborative Courts Officer, Paul Shapiro. As Mr. Shapiro guided us through the court’s beautiful interior, which included a mural and decorative tiles, he explained that the Community Court is the hub for most Orange collaborative courts.
We were lucky enough to observe Adult Drug Court, a renowned program that collaborates with several county agencies to provide effective drug treatment and prevention for participants. We began by observing case conferencing, a roundtable discussion where Judge Joe Perez and a team of representatives from the district attorney, the public defender, probation, and public health services discuss the progress of the participants. Judge Perez provided his own overview of drug court, stating that their drug court “saves lives and saves money,” and that they “see miracles on a daily basis.” He also made sure to explain terms and unique cases to us as they proceeded throughout case conferencing.
Judge Perez’s passion for Drug Court became further evident during our observation of the court. As each participant was called up to the stand, he encouraged applause for participants that were succeeding, and he remembered at least one personal detail from every participant’s life. Hearing the changes many participants have made in their lives made the drug court’s work much more material, and all of us left feeling inspired.
After lunch, we traveled to the Central Justice Center (CJC), another Orange court building that houses the executive team. The fellows split up into two groups: one stayed in CJC for an Electronic Legal File (ELF) Demonstration, and the other walked over to the jail to observe the courtroom at the jail. Orange County is known as one of California’s most technologically advanced court, and ELF is one of many tools the court uses to be more efficient and streamlined. The courtroom at the jail is exactly what it sounds like, and it was fascinating to observe a hearing that was in a jail basement. Judge Craig Robison was kind enough to speak with the fellows during a pause in proceedings, and he explained how this unique jail increases efficiency by reducing defendant waiting times and eliminating some transportation costs.
We ended the day with an overview of the court lead by Orange County Fellow, Monica Vedolla and a panel discussion with Presiding Judge Charles Margines, CEO Alan Carlson, and COO Adriaan Ayers. Seminars are great because we have the opportunity to talk with major figures in the judicial administration field, and we were all thrilled to ask the three executive team members many questions about their court and the future.
I also find that one of the most rewarding aspects of seminars is connecting the field portion with the academic portion, and on Friday we spent the day connecting our experiences with the readings and exercises presented to us by Professor Jim Brighton. The field seminars bring the academic portion to life, and by the end of our two days together, we walked away with a deeper understanding of some judicial administration intricacies of the Orange County Superior Court.
- Carlos Martinez, JAF 15-16
Judicial Fellows at dinner after the field seminar.