President's Message

Light at the end of the tunnel? Yes, but it may be a long ride

Greetings CCA Members,

One year ago, the wheels of justice skidded to a halt: nonessential cases were stayed, proceedings were delayed, and the deadlines for filing some lawsuits were suspended. But judges and their staff, like their healthcare colleagues, performed triage operations to keep the wheels spinning in cases that posed immediate safety issues.

COVID-19 emergency orders initially shuttered several courthouse doors, forcing the legal system to change operations rapidly. Jury trials were suspended by most courts and many started to hold such judicial proceedings remotely. The legal system, however, stayed up and running.

Across the length and breadth of the world, the “new normal” is the buzzword. However, this does not mean “taking it while lying down”. We rely on each other more than ever to do our best. Many elements of business and life are being challenged; and the “new normal” may look very different as new ways of working are carried over into the future.

When the public panics, service workers are the first to deal with it.

Customer experience has taken on a new definition and dimension in the overwhelming challenges of COVID-19. Access to justice is a human being’s fundamental right. People rely on the legal system for custody rights, business disputes, orders against abuse, the rights of landlords and tenants, guardianship, conservatorships, adoptions, traffic citations, and so much more.

It is the responsibility of the public sector to ensure that it is constantly improving and surpassing expectations. Good customer service is expected, but great customer service is what we should be striving for in the public sector, particularly in the current climate of the COVID-19 pandemic, decreasing budgets and increasing workloads. The current COVID-19 outbreak is a global crisis and has been a new opportunity for our courts to support our customers and communities.

There is no doubt that the California courts will continue to see a surge of ever-increasing numbers of litigants who go to court without legal counsel, largely because they cannot afford representation. Self-represented litigants typically are unfamiliar with court procedures and forms, as well as with their rights and obligations, which leaves them disadvantaged in court and may require the courts to expend significant resources. Accordingly, the Judicial Council has made access to the courts for self-represented litigants one of its top priorities.

Many of the capabilities established out of necessity during this extraordinary time—such as remote work, customer self-service, social media engagement, remote health monitoring—will become the new normal of public service delivery.

We have found even more ways to establish and scale online offerings with substantial demand from our customers as their needs in-creasingly turn digital. This shift to online and digital channels has the potential to dramatically increase online traffic post-recovery. Digi-tal delivery has become a necessity for most customers who are confined at home. Adoption has grown strongly, even among the most “digitally resistant” customers.

We all know that work will never be the same, even if we don’t yet know all the ways in which it will be different. What we can say with certainty is that the sudden shift to distributed work has provided a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reimagine everything about how we do our jobs and how we serve the public. There’s an opportunity to retain the best parts of our court culture while freeing ourselves from bad habits and inefficient processes.

As court employees, you should be very proud knowing that without you the quality of justice and service to the public could not with-stand this pandemic. Your dedication to public service, has shown that you are a true warrior, humble and sometimes forgotten essential worker. So Stand tall Court Clerk and march on Essential worker!

Michelle Baldwin


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One year ago, the wheels of justice skidded to a halt: nonessential…