Court Leader’s Advantage Video Podcast: July 2020 Episode

Since the May 25th death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, emotions in this country have been rubbed raw.  There have been protest marches in all 50 states, which have led to some unique tensions for America’s trial courts.  The First Amendment to the Constitution guarantees the right of freedom of speech and to peaceably assemble and petition for redress of grievances.  The NACM Model Code of Conduct for Court Professionals Canon 4.1 advises “A court professional does not use his or her position or title within the court system to influence others” along with the provision that “A court professional engages in political activity strictly as a private citizen and only in accordance with Federal law, state law, local court rule, and policy of the appropriate local governing authority.”  This Canon is augmented by a view many in the court community hold that a court professional is always a representative of the court, whether or not they are on the job at the courthouse.

As a Clerk of Court or a Court Administrator, what advice would you give to your employees?  What are the ethical implications of employees wanting to join protest marches?  Is there a model policy that we could use as a best practice?  What advice is there for court professionals around the country who might be facing these very questions? 

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About This Month’s Panelists

Elisa Chinn-Gary is the Clerk of Superior Court and Judge of Probate for Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. She was first elected to office in November 2014 and re-elected to a second term in November 2018. Elisa received her B.A. at Winston Salem State University (magna cum laude) in 1996, her J.D. at the University of North Carolina School of Law in 1999; and her M.A. in Social Work at the University of North Carolina in 2000.

Elisa’s experience includes:  Attorney Advocate:  North Carolina Guardian Ad Litem program 1999-2002; Juvenile Defender: Council for Children’s Rights (formerly Children’s Law Center) 2000-2001; Administrator of the Mecklenburg Family Court 2001-2015; Adjunct Professor: Charlotte School of Law 2010-2015.

Since taking office in December 2014, the Honorable Chinn-Gary has made great strides in improving workplace culture across divisions; qualitative work output across court divisions; active staff promotion, cross training and salary incentives; collaborative partnerships for racial/implicit bias analysis for more equitable outcomes; and employee-company engagement with local charities.

Co-Chair of Race Matters for Juvenile Justice, the Honorable Chinn-Gary is known as an institutional organizer and implicit bias lecturer, who is committed to building more equitable and just systems of governance.  Recipient of various awards, she was most notably honored as the 2014 Julius L. Chambers Diversity Champion by the Mecklenburg County Bar Association, as a 2015 NAACP History Maker, recipient of the McCrorey YMCA’s 2017 MLK Spirit Award and the 2017 Charlotte Mecklenburg NAACP Distinguished Service Award, and Charlotte’s 2019 Pride Award.

Beth Baldwin has served as the Court Administrator for the Seattle Municipal Court since November, 2015. Before moving to Seattle, Beth worked for 15 years as the Court Administrator of the Fifth Judicial District of Iowa, a 16 county area including Polk County/Des Moines. Beth holds her law degree from the University of Minnesota, her MPA from the Ohio State University and her undergraduate degree from Northwestern University. She lives in Lake Stevens, WA with her husband Roger and their new puppy Sasha who the neighbors call Salsa as she is so lively and spicy. Beth enjoys reading, hiking, fishing, crabbing and is a board game enthusiast.

Sarah Brown-Clark is a 1971 cum laude graduate of Ohio University with a B.S. degree in English; she also earned her M.A. degree in English from Ohio University in 1972 and earned hours towards a Ph.D. in English from Kent State University.  Currently Ms. Brown-Clark is the Clerk of the Youngstown Municipal Court, a position to which she was elected in November 1999.  She is retired from Youngstown State University where she was an Associate Professor of English since 1972 and currently has Faculty Emeritus status.  Ms. Brown-Clark is the mother of three children – twins: Lester and Lesli and Stephani and the grandmother of six, including a second-generation set of twins.  Sarah Brown-Clark believes in community activism and believes that it is the responsibility of professionals to articulate the concerns of their community and to facilitate the formal and informal education of all members of the community.  During her tenure at Youngstown State University where she served as the Director of the Black Studies Program for several years, she exemplified this commitment by bringing nationally known educational speakers as well as nationally known entertainers to the YSU campus, events that were free and open to the public. 

She has fulfilled this personal commitment by serving on a number of boards and lecturing extensively.  She served two terms on the Youngstown Board of Education from 1992-1999 and while on the board, served two consecutive terms as President.  In addition, Ms. Brown-Clark is a past President of the Youngstown Chapter of Links, Incorporated and currently serves as the Central Area Parliamentarian, a division which includes (69) sixty-nine chapters in (15) states.  In addition to being a past chair of the Youngstown Human Relations Commission, she is a past president of the Executive Committee of the Community Corporation, better known to some as the United Way of Youngstown and former chair of the Review Committee, which funds new programs. She previously served on several other United Way Committees and chaired the United Way Fund Distribution Committee for several years, in addition to serving as a Campaign Division Leader for the 1989, 1999 and 1991 campaigns.  Currently she serves on the Board of the Youngstown Symphony Society.  Ms. Brown-Clark is a member of The Links, Incorporated; Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated, Epsilon Mu Omega Chapter: Covenant Chapter #48. Order of the Easter Star and Third Baptist Church.

Sarah Brown-Clark served two terms as Chair of the Western Reserve Transit Authority and served on the following boards:  YWCA, Youngstown Area Urban League, Mahoning County Mental Retardation Workshop, Woodside Receiving Hospital, Leadership Mahoning Valley, Goodwill Industries and the Mahoning County Mental Health Board.  In addition to being a member of the 1986 Leadership Youngstown Program, she was also member of the 1994 Leadership Ohio Charter Class. 

She was an active member of the Ohio Education Association and the local chapter of the A. Philip Randolph Institute.  Ms. Brown-Clark served on the State Resolutions Commission, the District Legislative Committee and the YSU-OEA Grievance Committee. She was also elected to the National Education Association Resolutions Commission, in addition to having been elected by her peers to serve as a delegate to five National Education Association annual legislative assemblies.

          For several years, Sarah Brown-Clark hosted a weekly radio program titled, “Eye Opening and Thought Provoking” which consisted of readings from African American literature.  Some of you may remember her byline, “All I want to do is read to you.”

She has lectured extensively and has been the keynote speaker at local and national events as well as facilitated workshops on issues relative to the roles and responsibilities of African American females, ethnic and cultural diversity and African American history.

After her election to the office of Youngstown Municipal Clerk of Court in 1999, Sarah Brown-Clark became actively involved in court management.  She was elected to a three-year term on the Board of Directors for the National Association for Court Managers in 2001.  At the conclusion of her term on the Board in July 2004, she was appointed to serve on the prestigious Professional Development Committee of the organization.   In addition, Ms. Brown-Clark served on the American Judges Association and the National Center for State Courts Judicial Education on Substance Abuse Committee as well as the National Center for State Courts Advisory Board for Serving Limited English Proficient Battered Women.  In 2006, Ms. Brown-Clark was appointed to the Michigan State University Judicial Administration National Advisory Board.  On the state level, she is a past President of the Ohio Association of Municipal Court Clerks and serves on several Supreme Court Committees, among which are the Court Personnel Education and Training Committee in the Judicial College division and the Adhoc Rights Restoration Committee. 

  Ms. Brown-Clark was the recipient of the Professional Certification Award from the Ohio Association of Municipal Clerks. In addition, she chairs the Education and Certification Committees. 

In 2004, Ms. Brown-Clark passed the National Association of Parliamentarians exam and currently serves the as the Central Area Parliamentarian of The Links, Incorporated.  The Central Area has 68 chapters in 17 states. 

Jeff Chapple is the Court Administrator for the O’Fallon Missouri Municipal Court a Division of the 11th Judicial Circuit of Missouri. He has been in this position since 2004 and has grown the Court to become a leader within the state. He acts as a primary liaison to the state government and serves as a resource for the judges and judicial staff on many issues. Jeff received his Certified Court Administrator (CCA) certificate through Missouri Training Institute in 2007. Jeff earned his Certified Court Manager (CCM) through the National Center for State Courts institute for Court Management in 2016. He also achieved his Advanced Certified Court Administrators (ACCA) certificate through Missouri Court Management Institute in 2017

Mr. Chapple served as a director 2015-2018 on the National Association for Court Management (NACM) Board serving as Membership Chair. He served on the Board of the Missouri Association for Court Administrators 2009-2017 from regional director to President. He has and continues to serve on many local and regional associations staying connected within the communities he lives and works within.

Mr. Chapple received his undergraduate degree from the University of Missouri and Master’s degree from Lindenwold University.

Do You Want to Know More?

Arizona Supreme Court Judicial Ethics Opinion

Opinion of the Massachusetts Supreme Court 2017 Regarding the March for Women

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