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Every court should have a Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP) so everyone knows what to do when a disaster such as fire, hurricane, or utility failure strikes. A COOP is a living document that requires regular updating as circumstances change and court personnel turn over. The articles in this issue of The Judges’ Journal will help judges understand how they can make sure a COOP is implemented and all parties are executing their responsibilities.
The Judicial Division continues to focus on many of the same crucial issues on which it was founded a century ago: judicial selection, the compensation of judges, the structure of our court systems, jurisdiction, administrative and financial support, and judicial independence.
Do you have a written plan to effectively and efficiently manage unexpected disruptions to court operations? Disaster planning is an essential part of court leadership. A good Continuity of Operations Plan will prepare your court to deal with disaster and act as a beacon of stability during a chaotic time.
When a fire struck the county courthouse in Prince George’s County, Maryland, in November 2004, the evacuation drills the employees begrudgingly participated in since 9/11 paid dividends. No one panicked, and no life was lost. The lesson learned is that the best practice in preparing for a disaster is to rehearse, rehearse, rehearse.
Just weeks before a fire broke out in the Chatham County Court in North Carolina, staff met to complete a Pandemic Continuity of Operations Plan (P-COOP). Input for the plan was gathered from judges, clerks of court, magistrates, and others. Originally designed to ensure that courts remain open and accessible for business should a pandemic occur, the P-COOP was effective for this emergency situation and can serve as an example for others.
Courts should take these 10 steps to prepare for and minimize the impacts of any emergency situation, not just earthquakes, and maintain business as usual. The key is planning your emergency response in advance.
William K. Suter retired in August 2013 after 22 years of service as the 19th clerk of the U.S. Supreme Court. He offers insight into how the clerk’s office operates, how the Court reviews petitions, and what judges can do to make the work of the clerk easier.
Having a COOP in place enabled the Bankruptcy Court in the Southern District of New York to be up and operating within 26 hours of Hurricane Sandy. Key to the plan was the staff’s proficiency with teleworking, which allowed nonstop operations such as docketing orders and updating the website with emergency instructions.
Judge Gladys Kessler, a renowned member of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, knew at an early age that she wanted a career that would be intellectually challenging for a lifetime. Discover how she endeavors to make judges more cognizant of their responsibility to the Constitution, the rule of law, and the importance of remaining in touch with the reality of people’s lives.
The creation and development of an Information Technology Disaster Recovery Plan for a court is an extremely complex, detailed, and technical process. Judge Dixon outlines some of the considerations that must be a part of any court’s effort to effectively develop such a plan.
By keeping basic ethical precepts in the forefront, judges can ensure that courts in times of crisis are courts that continue to promote public confidence in the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary.