2017 NAPCO | NCSC Leadership Conference for State Court Leaders

Becoming Champions of Change: Presiding Judges and Court Executives
September 24-27, 2017 • Scottsdale, Arizona • DoubleTree Resort by Hilton

Doubletree Scottsdale

Continuing a new tradition in trial court leadership education, the National Association for Presiding Judges and Court Executive Officers (NAPCO) and the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) will present programs and workshops directed at improving leadership skills for top state and local trial court leaders and their management teams. The 3-day event, beginning Sunday evening and concluding Wednesday at noon, explores best practices in judicial administration, targets presiding judge and court administrator teambuilding, and provides a variety of seminars and practicums addressing today’s problems and solutions in leading and managing courts.


View the latest agenda: PDF (updated August 28, 2017).

Schedule of Events

Sunday begins with an early evening reception at the conference hotel, the DoubleTree Resort by Hilton at Paradise Valley – Scottsdale, a premier 378-room destination property near downtown Scottsdale amenities, including Fashion Square (Arizona’s largest indoor shopping complex), Camelback Mountain, the Canal Waterfront restaurant and entertainment district, the Museum of the West, and numerous golf courses and hiking trails. The resort offers many amenities, check some of them out here: PDF. Conference registration begins March 1; the lodging rate is $129/night for single or double room accommodations. All educational activities will be held at the hotel. Attire is business casual. Scottsdale weather in late September is in the low 90’s during the day and mid-70’s in the evenings. The relative humidity is generally below 23% (dry).

Monday is designated Leadership Academy Day. The theme is Leading Change: How to Manage and Stimulate Needed New Directions in Courts. A recent study showed that when doctors tell heart patients they will die if they don’t change their habits, only one in seven will be able to follow through successfully. Desire and motivation aren’t enough: even when it’s literally a matter of life or death. The ability to change remains maddeningly elusive.If the status quo is so potent, how do effective presiding judges and court executives change their trial courts? How strategically and responsibly do they reform, modify, or reshape the programs, processes and work of the court, or, for that matter, the local justice system? Leadership in these situations is often a matter of relationships, not position; a matter of communication, not edicts; and a matter of persuasion, not power.

The National Center, working with the latest findings and research on how high-talent, professionally based organizations like courts can unlock their potential regarding new approaches and move forward is the focus of this day-long session. The Center will present a series of principles and practices that address our individual beliefs – along with our collective mind-sets in an organizational setting – that combine to create a natural and powerful immunity to change. Some conclusions and studies about change are unique to courts such as Tom Church’s “local legal culture;” others are more universal, involving a general psychological reluctance by most people to adopt new methods and approaches not because of a fear of something new, but based on feelings of loss associated with deep-rooted and familiar patterns of behavior and routines where people are comfortable and know how to operate (i.e. the status quo).

In the midst of this general immunity to change, the presiding judge / court executive team is called to both recognize when change is necessary, and to cause others to act in desired ways for the benefit of broader purposes and values whether it’s the trial court, the judicial branch, or another valued group. Understanding the built-in human aversion to change is only part of the skill set needed by leaders. Equally important is the knowledge and ability to bring into play proven, constructive ways to implement and sustain needed change without being undone. Or, as Ron Heifetz and Marty Linsky, two Harvard professors, say in their seminal work, Leadership on the Line: Staying Alive through the Dangers of Leadership, “The hope of leadership lies in the capacity to deliver disturbing news and raise difficult questions in a way people can absorb, prodding them to take up the message rather than ignore it or kill the messenger.” NCSC will provide a mix of plenary sessions and small break-out, team-focused exercises directed at practical examples and useful techniques in leading change in the world of courts.

Monday evening offers an optional outing for conferees and their guests to learn more about life in the Southwest, the history of the Valley of the Sun, special cafes, and unique venues in downtown Scottsdale, including Old Town and the Art District. The judges and staffs of the Judicial Branch in Maricopa County have arranged the event. Transportation will be provided.

Throughout the day on Tuesday, and during the morning on Wednesday, conferees will be able to attend an array of useful workshops. Some of the topics under development include “A Digital Evidence UPDATE: The Latest about Body-Worn Cameras and Court Proceedings,” New, Better Ways to Manage Multiple Problem-Solving Dockets within a Trial Court,” “Electronic Judicial Dashboards: A Nifty Method for Trial Judges to Oversee their Dockets,” “The Maricopa County Courthouse Justice Museum and Learning Center: A Novel, Replicable Public Education Approach,” “How to Develop and Effectively Use Trial Court Executive Committees,” “Online Dispute Resolution: Coming to a Trial Court Near You,” Artificial Intelligence in the Practice of Law and Court Operations,” “A Special Socratic Panel: Leading a Local Justice System beyond the Court’s Boundaries – They don’t call it the Adversary System for Nothing,” and “Justice Initiatives, Inc. – a Harvard Innovations in Government Award Winning Nonprofit that Helps Charlotte NC courts.” Further details regarding educational programming will be completed over the next few months.

Conference enrollment is limited to 200-225 participants, an increase from the 175 attendees at the inaugural 2016 NAPCO/NCSC Court Leadership Conference in Cleveland. Registration and lodging expenses have purposefully been kept low, and can be facilitated through state Supreme Court Administrative Office budgets, individual trial court funds, and scholarships as appropriate. (NAPCO works closely with the Conference of Chief Justices and Conference of State Court Administrators in synchronizing Conference details and NAPCO leadership initiatives with CCJ/COSCA projects and policies).


Registration opens on March 1, 2017, via the NAPCO website. You need not be a NAPCO member to attend the Conference, although if you are a presiding or chief judge, or the top court executive or administrator in your court, the annual cost to join NAPCO ($100/person) is nominal. Membership provides entrée to ongoing services and information from NAPCO and the National Center about court leadership activities and other court leadership team contacts. Also, as NAPCO matures in its role as a source for national trial court leadership research and education, you and your court will be able to receive the latest in programs and knowledge about new initiatives, trainings, and useful techniques in leading courts. Information about NAPCO membership is available on the organization’s website.

Registration fees for the 2017 Conference include all educational and social events

  • $300 US per person when part of an attending judge/administrator trial court team
  • $350 US per person when not part of an attending judge/administrator trial court team
  • $100 US per person for a spouse or guest

Registration and Hotel

Exhibit Schedule

Monday, September 25, 2017

  • 1:00 to 4:00pm – Exhibitor setup
  • 4:30 to 6:00pm – Exhibits open with Wine & Cheese Reception

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

  • 9:00am to 2:00pm – Exhibits open
  • 12:00pm – Lunch served in exhibit area