Clerk of Court
United States District Court Western District of New York
Years in current role: 5-plus
What do you enjoy most about your role?
After 15 years as Executive Director of the Monroe County Bar Association, moving to the federal judiciary was daunting. I hadn’t had a more significant learning curve since the beginning of my 40-year career. Working for the United States Federal Judiciary has been an incredible honor. Working to support our Constitution and our system of justice drives me every day. I work alongside an extremely dedicated and accomplished team of 59 in the Clerk’s Office. In addition I provide administration and support to 15 judges and their chamber staff. I am a believer that we become better and are more successful at what we do by surrounding ourselves with people that are skilled in the areas in which we want to learn and grow.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve dealt with over the past year?
Across our two federal courthouses, we were faced with a flood of our IT server room, a fire, and a bomb threat all within a brief period of time. When the pandemic was declared, we had to relocate federal court judges to secure home offices, and create a staff schedule rotating staff on a weekly basis — 50% staff on-site and 50% working remotely. The summer of 2020 brought national public unrest directed at many federal courthouses nationwide. Both of our courthouses experienced the unrest and incurred some damage. As Clerk of the Court, my job is to keep eyes on everyone and everything, and to make certain systems and processes are working — that people are feeling safe, productive and appreciated. It has been a long year with many stressful days and sleepless nights!
What do you see as the biggest changes in the legal industry in the next 3-5 years?
This pandemic has changed how the world works and how we interact with people. It will also change how the profession works. Within weeks our judges were holding remote hearings via Zoom for Government. Remote learning, working and conferencing has forever changed the world, and most definitely the justice system. My personal hope is that we find a balance. For someone that went through college with a portable typewriter, I remain in awe on a daily basis of the role technology has played in our lives. We need to continue to explore how technology can continue to make us more efficient without losing our humanity. In a place that can be isolating, I miss my colleagues. Debate will ensue about people continuing to work remotely, but I hope we begin to recognize that what makes us successful is connecting with other people over coffee, water coolers and lunch in galleys, while continuing to be safe.
What advice would you give law students who are graduating this year?
Pay attention to and continue to hone your writing skills, and when you think you are there, hone them again. Good writing skills are important to you as a lawyer, to your clients that want to have confidence in you, and yes, writing really matters to the judges. Be early for court appearance, be prepared, silence your cellphone before entering the courtroom and speak up. Do not go into solo practice for at least seven years and when you do, be sure you have liability insurance. Join bar associations and be engaged. Find a mentor who wants to be your mentor, learn what makes them successful, and then practice what they do every day.
What are you most looking forward to doing as COVID restrictions ease?
Inviting close friends back to the porch for hugs, wine and long overdue conversations. Traveling with my partner — we miss the adventures. Hugging my three children all at once and spending time with them all in one place.