Due to the Efforts of So Many

Welcome to the Bench/Bar edition of the Contra Costa Lawyer for 2017. Consistent with tradition, included are updates from our court’s supervising judges regarding developments in the areas of court that they manage. Also, as in prior editions, we feature conversations introducing the court’s two newest judges. Beyond these typical articles, in this edition we take a look at important operational areas of the court that typically don’t get much attention—court security and court legal staff, both of which provide critical support for Judges and the public. Sheriff’s staff and court legal staff are just two examples of the effort and involvement required by so many in order to run as large and complicated a court as we have in Contra Costa County.

I recently had an opportunity to meet with another group of inspiring individuals that also supports the operations of the court. These folks work for a non-profit firm, Futures Explored, which provides training, support, and employment for adults with mild to moderate developmental disabilities. There are two “job coaches” who directly supervise seven staff, while also providing job skills, safety, and life-skills training. The workers perform various tasks at the court including pulling files, opening mail, copying, sorting, and delivery of paper, among a variety of other ongoing and special tasks. The people who are assigned to work with the court rarely turn over; one of the staff has worked with the court for 24 years, and another 18 years. Also, one of the job coaches indicated that the participants are proud to work at a place that they believe is so important. When asked about how he feels working at the court, one of the workers smiled and said, “It makes me feel so good!” Their work habits, commitment, and attitude are extraordinary. Most of the participants take public transportation, which can be a challenge, with one worker having up to a two-hour bus commute, including connections, each way. And they often come to work even when they don’t feel well. “We send them home when we know that they are sick, to let them rest and in order not to spread the illness. But, they just don’t like to miss work,” Heather Prince, one of the job coaches, reported. Also, no matter what happens and how much work comes in on a given day, their workers rarely complain. “They just dig in and do it,” said Prince.

I watched several of them pulling files from a list generated that morning. They moved quickly, and were focused and organized. Our court’s lead records clerk, Antwana Fortenberry, told me, “They are always serious about their job, they can be relied on, and they are a big help. We really appreciate them!”

Futures Explored staff, Sheriff’s Court Security staff, court legal research attorneys and family law facilitators, are just some of the amazing people who work hard to make court work. Our court’s chronic resource limitations and challenges have been documented elsewhere. So far, though, we have found ways to continue to serve the public without making the lines, delays, or backlogs too long. That accomplishment has only been possible through the determination and hard work of many people, not only those identified in this edition, but the entire bench, our court staff, and with the voluntary support that many of you have provided and continue to provide. It is humbling to work with so many great people. Thank you!