Strategic Issues

Three-year strategic plans have guided NAPCO in recent years since it was repurposed in 2015 as an organization. They have helped the Association to become the premier national leadership group for trial courts regardless of size of court or jurisdiction. NAPCO’s predecessor organization, the National Conference of Metropolitan Courts (founded in 1963) was comprised only of large, urban courts. This change in identity (all trial courts) and focus (emphasis on court leadership competencies, not merely metro trial court programs) has been both welcome and helpful to state and local trial court leaders.

2023-2025 Strategic Campaign (Plan)

Our 2023-2025 Strategic Campaign (Plan) represents the second in a series of formal guidelines for the Association. It was developed by a special committee which met during a full-day retreat on August 20, 2022, in Anaheim, California prior to the Association’s Sixth Annual Leadership Academy and Conference. The plan builds on numerous accomplishments and improvements since NAPCO’s first strategic campaign (plan) was finalized in March 2018.

The four key themes guiding our work target activities that will (1) strengthen the viability and sustainability of NAPCO, (2) promote continued innovations in education research and personal growth for presiding judges and court executives as productive pairs and for their leadership teams, (3) create more energized and engaged committees, and (4) heighten NAPCO’s significance and outreach through webinars, special programs, mentorships, and partnerships with other court improvement groups. A complete copy of the strategic campaign can be viewed and downloaded here.

2018-2021 Strategic Campaign (Plan)

NAPCO’s Strategic Planning Committee, co-chaired by the Hon. Paula Carey, Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Trial Courts, and Sandra Lonergan, Trial Court Administrator for the 11th Judicial Circuit of Florida in Miami/Dade County, developed a set of initiatives that charted the Association’s work over fiscal years July 2018 – June Called a “strategic campaign” rather than a strategic plan, it was endorsed and adopted by the NAPCO Board in March 2018. Previous strategic plans were quite abbreviated, informal, and centered on 12-month time periods.

“A campaign approach is more flexible and open-ended than traditional planning,” said Gordon Griller, NAPCO’s Executive Director. “It permits judges, court managers, and courts themselves to mobilize around broad-scoped themes rather than narrow, fixed objectives.” Other advantages of the campaign approach and use of themes, he noted, is it allows substantial and recurrent planning, invites continual interpretation and discovery regarding actions and programs, and largely focuses on the services given by the organization to benefit its members, court leaders, and the national justice community in general.

The four themes that guided NAPCO’s work during this period of time targeted activities that (1) built and enhanced the governance and leadership skills and capacities of presiding and court executive officers, (2) equipped court leaders with the knowledge and tools necessary to lead change and court improvement efforts, (3) created collaborative, complementary alliances with justice system associations that advance the interests of justice and principles inherent in the Rule of Law, and (4) promoted and increased the membership of NAPCO. A complete copy of the strategic campaign can be viewed and downloaded here.

Educational Directions

Periodically, NAPCO canvasses its membership regarding major issues and problems confronting trial court leadership judges and court executives. A list of educational directions important to the national community of trial courts is subsequently created as a tool to aid in planning educational programming and national efforts directed at improvements and reforms. Below is the list of priorities developed by the Association over recent years. These subjects and objectives likely will change somewhat as the future unfolds through membership surveys and a clearer awareness by NAPCO of new and emerging trends for state and local trial courts.

First Level Priorities

  • Strengthen leadership skills training and competencies of presiding/chief judges, court executives, and trial court leadership teams, including but not limited to improving the synergy between top leadership judges and court executives as “productive pairs;”
  • Promote caseflow management and delay/cost reduction programs in trial courts;
  • Increase trial court productivity via reengineering and operational innovations;
  • Inform and educate trial court leaders on emerging technologies that can be applied to the justice system such as artificial intelligence, smartphone utilities, high-tech / high-touch courtroom digital systems, etc.;
  • Collaborate with other court improvement organizations, especially the Conference of Chief Justices, Conference of State Court Administrators, and National Association for Court Management, to advance judicial independence, fair and unbiased courts, and the Rule of Law;
  • Identify and further techniques and training regimens to enhance calendar management skills for trial judges, including managing trials effectively, mediation and arbitration proficiency, and settlement skills;
  • Promote diversity, equity and inclusion programs that improve understanding, relationships and operations involving court customers, judicial officers, litigants, lawyers, victims, witnesses, justice system partners, court staff and the public;
  • Develop leadership succession guidelines and principles to help trial courts in the transition from one presiding judge or court executive to another; and
  • Create and advocate strategies and practices to improve/modernize trial court facilities, courthouse security, and safety for judicial officers and staff.

Second Level Priorities

  • Develop useful guides and workshops on budget cutback strategies;
  • Support evidence-based sentencing and evidence-based probation;
  • Research and endorse proven problem-solving forums such as drug courts, mental health courts, teen courts, veterans’ courts, homeless courts, and domestic violence courts as effective ways to deliver justice;
  • Promote public information programs to demystify the court system;
  • Work to encourage court-related efforts to minimize jail overcrowding and promote effective pretrial programs in lieu of money bonds;
  • Advance high-tech and e-court solutions for trial courts;
  • Promote greater diversity on the bench and among court executives;
  • Research and outline practical, proven ways to build better, more supportive relationships with funding agencies (e.g. cities, counties, state legislatures);
  • Explore and identify ways to improve collaborative, productive relationships between trial courts and statewide administrative offices of the courts (AOC’s);
  • Support and advocate the implementation of modern jury reforms (e.g. ABA jury standards, elimination of peremptory challenges, greater juror compensation);
  • Improve the understanding and relationships between trial courts and the media;
  • Encourage the adoption and practical implementation of the National Center for State Courts’ ten CourTool performance measures in all trial courts; and
  • Be a leader in judicial and court executive ethics training

Third Level Priorities

  • Take an active role in identifying and supporting national programs that target early detection of abuse, neglect and victimization of vulnerable populations;
  • Research and support workable guidelines on privacy and public access to court records; and
  • Champion the development of unified family courts, combining the adjudication of juvenile, domestic relations and other related matters under the umbrella of one family/one judge or judicial team.