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May 01, 2017

A Typical Week of a City Presiding Judge Outside the Courtroom

By Judge Elizabeth R. Finn


Hmmm, what is on my calendar for this week? I know the number one item is to update my résumé and application for my reappointment. It is due on Friday! There is a Court Management Team meeting on Tuesday, swearing-in of a reelected councilmember Tuesday night, a regular city manager meeting Wednesday morning, mental health court Wednesday afternoon, and swearing-in of the new chief of police on Thursday.

The résumé from two years ago just needs to be updated with what is new. As I am editing, my court administrator comes to talk about a problem with an employee. We strategize how we can address the attitude she is displaying, which is causing issues with other employees. An impromptu meeting follows with her supervisor. She agrees with our approach. We call in the employee and try to provide a positive approach in our conversation with her. Afterward, I remind her supervisor to document our conversation.

I then meet with a fairly new secretary. I ask her, “where are we with the request for proposals for our mandatory counseling for people convicted of driving while under the influence and domestic violence?” She says she is having trouble receiving a clear answer from the Procurement Office. I advise her to try again and let me know if she is not successful. The current provider’s contract expires in April, but we can continue month to month if necessary.

Okay, where was I? Oh, my reappointment. I am going through the monthly executive summaries and my calendar to identify what needs to be added to my application. Because my attention was already diverted from the reappointment application, I read some email. City management two weeks ago allowed us to exceed our line item for public defenders. Mental health court has too many defendants for the court to only be held every other week. We need to have it occur weekly. The city attorney and I worked with city management to secure a half-contract prosecutor and half-contract public defender to cover this expansion. The good news is the posting for the public defender recruitment has closed and we have good candidates. I print their résumés and consult with the other judges. They agree on the individuals I suggested to interview. I will have the secretary set the interviews for this week.

Back to the application. Oh, I have a meeting so this will wait until later.

After the meeting, I sit down at my computer to work on my application again. I actually get a lot done in between reading emails.

At home, I try working on my reappointment application. I just cannot concentrate so I finish reading my email and review some progress reports for mental health court.


I have meetings with my court administrator first thing this morning. I was hoping to get some time to work on my application. Well, I guess not. It is time for the every-other-week Management Team meeting. For some reason, this one lasts for two hours. I head back to my chambers to try to catch up on some email. Suddenly, I realize I am hungry and it is 12:30 p.m. I take my lunch into the breakroom. As I am halfway through lunch, my secretary comes in saying she and the person in Procurement are totally confused and asks me to have a conference call right then. I pack up the leftover portion of my lunch and walk to my chambers. Procurement wants to know if the agency we use has contracts with other cities. I indicate I do not know. However, if I ask and they do not, the question could cause an issue with the procurement process. Procurement agrees. They then ask how much money the court spends on the contract. I say none; all fees are paid by the defendants. Procurement says we should be able to do a single-source contract. I advise Procurement that because we are a direct referral source, other agencies are very interested in our business. Procurement checks their records and says, “oh, four agencies applied last time. You are correct. We need to conduct a full request-for-proposal process.” After I hang up, my secretary asks about what she should do next. I advise her to meet with the compliance specialist to receive updated numbers for the past two years to try to complete a rough draft of the request for proposals. I am no longer hungry.

Interviews for the half-contract public defender are starting at 1:00 p.m. The judges, court administrator, and I interview the candidates and, fortunately, agree unanimously on one. I assign my court administrator to do the last reference check. In the meantime, I call the candidate and ask her if she can be at mental health court tomorrow so she can see what occurs. Luckily, she is available tomorrow afternoon.

The rest of the day is spent on emails and mental health court reports. In the evening, I attend the installation of newly elected councilmembers and administer the oath of office to one of them.

I get home about 8 p.m. and have no time for my reappointment application. I have mental health court tomorrow and need to finish reviewing all the progress reports and enter the information needed to complete the contracts I will issue to defendants tomorrow. It is about 10:30 p.m. when I finish.


The city manager’s meeting thankfully lasts only an hour. I can read on my iPad that the missing mental health court progress reports have been sent. As I am finishing up the progress reports, my court program coordinator, who is over mental health court and also our pilot program where I am deciding competency (as opposed to the general jurisdiction court), enters my chambers. She is having trouble trying to figure out the best way to word a minute entry. We discuss the issue and then she leaves. I grab a quick lunch and start staffing at 1:00 p.m. with case managers, the prosecutor, the public defender, a peer support specialist, the court program coordinator, and the new half-contract public defender. We finish late and enter the courtroom about 3:20 p.m. for a docket that was supposed to start at 3:00 p.m. We finish the docket by 5:00 p.m. and I am exhausted. I take care of a few more things that must be completed and then go home. I’m too tired tonight to work on my reappointment application. Tomorrow. . . .


First thing, I go to the Public Safety Building to swear in the new chief of police. But the public information officer forgot to print out the oath. I call my secretary and have her email me one of the judges’ oaths. I advise the chief we will need to sign the formal oath later, but I will administer it now because there are so many people—the mayor, city manager, most of the council, and others—present. I use the judges’ oath, inserting “chief of police” for “city court judge.” After I make some small talk with the public officials, I head back to the courthouse.

We do not have a specific contract for mental health court. I take the one recently created for our pilot on competency evaluations, revise it, and send it to the main attorney whom the court uses in the city attorney’s office.

I actually have a couple of hours and finalize my reappointment package. I send it to a couple of individuals at the court who are my best proofreaders.

All afternoon is taken up meeting with my former information technology (IT) employee, our two new IT people, and my court administrator. We are reviewing what we currently have in technology that is missing from the new case management system the supreme court will deploy to our court in August. After dinner, I read and respond to all the email I did not read during the day.


Thank goodness for great proofreaders! They have reviewed my reappointment package, and I send it first thing this morning. There are no meetings on my calendar, so I assume I can start whittling down my email and my “to do” list. But no. The day gets lost dealing with five mentally ill people who were booked into Glendale’s detention facility. My court program coordinator has been constantly interrupted by phone calls to case managers to arrange for third-party releases. She has me sign the paperwork for each individual. If these defendants remain in custody, they will have a bond set and be transported to the jail, which is not where they should be and would cost $300 for the first day of confinement. Two of the defendants are not dressed and cannot be brought upstairs to the courthouse. I advise them I will go downstairs and arraign them at their cell, but they need to find some clothes for them. After two trips downstairs (yes, they had found some clothes for them), I return to my email and “to do” list. One of the judges comes in about 3:00 p.m. saying he is sick and needs to go home. I say go home; “I’ll take over your courtroom for the rest of the day.”

Though I was interrupted many times this week, I feel good about what I accomplished. I swore in a new councilmember and the chief of police, hired a new half-contract public defender and created her contract, worked on the request for proposal for counseling services, addressed an employee issue, and, most importantly, submitted on time my application for reappointment!