Judicial Staff Keep Court System on Track

by Vincent Funari

PHOENIX (November 7, 2023) - As the main point of contact, courtroom staff handle most of the court-related duties and inquiries so that judicial officers can focus on what they do best – interpret the law.


In many judicial divisions, judges and commissioners rely on a four-person team, comprised of a judicial and courtroom assistants, courtroom clerk and court reporter, who manage the courtroom, keep an accurate account of events and communicate with court customers. They support judicial officers in just about every facet of the judicial system – except legal research.


“Because judicial officers spend much of their time outside of the courtroom researching legal issues that arise during court or in motions, a good staff is invaluable. Staff members have a tremendous amount of responsibility when it comes to making sure that the administrative side of the division runs smoothly,” Judge Kevin Wein said. “Things quite literally would break down without the assistance of my staff, and their diligence allows me to focus on resolving the cases that come in front of me.”


The judicial assistant seldom enters the courtroom, but their work is critical to the operation of the Court. 


Tayler Born, a current judicial staff trainer who served as a judicial assistant to Judge Danielle Viola, believes a judicial assistant is the judge’s right-hand person.


“The judge doesn’t have the time to look through everything that comes into a judicial division and decide what to do with it. So, a judicial assistant will manage almost everything like setting hearings, speaking to court participants and giving the judge necessary case documents to prepare them for their court calendars,” Born said. “Most everything flows through the judicial assistant.”


Inside the courtroom, judicial officers turn to their courtroom assistants (once called a bailiff) to keep their courtroom running.


Dana Pardovich, courtroom assistant to Judge Suzanne Cohen, helps her judge in every way possible to ensure her court calendar runs smoothly.


“I manage the courtroom for morning calendar and other hearings throughout the day,” Pardovich said. “If we are in trial, I’m responsible for the jury and any other tasks that my judge or judicial assistant needs from me.”


From scheduling court dates to meeting the needs of everybody who walks through the courtroom doors or participates virtually, the courtroom assistant serves as an extension of the judicial officer while they are on the bench.


“I enjoy getting to work with all parties throughout the day - the judge, jurors, attorneys, victims and defendants. My job allows me to be a people person and doesn’t make me feel stagnant,” Pardovich said.


Seated next to the judge in the courtroom is the clerk. Unlike other members of courtroom staff, the clerk is not an employee of the Court. They are employed by the Clerk of the Superior Court, a separate agency tasked with court-related records management and financial services for the Court.


Barbara Navarro, who is working in Judge Joseph Kreamer’s division, has been a courtroom clerk in the Criminal Department for 27 years. Navarro, like the other courtroom clerks at Superior Court, is responsible for variety of duties, including recording all courtroom proceedings by attending court sessions, working with the judge on minute entries, administering oaths with witnesses and juries, reading verdicts, and maintaining exhibits or evidence admitted in the courtroom.


“I love my job because it’s very unique. As a courtroom clerk, I see a variety of cases from drug possession to murder. I never know what the day will bring and what will take place in the courtroom, which makes for very interesting days” Navarro said.


Perhaps one of the most difficult jobs in the courtroom belongs to the court reporter. For almost 22 years, Treva Colwell has been using her steno machine to capture every single word spoken during court, roughly 300 words per minute with greater than 95% accuracy, to create an official, verbatim record that can be referenced later. Court reporters are not assigned to one judicial division because they may be called upon at a moment’s notice to lend their services to other courtrooms as needed. 


“I enjoy working in court and making sure the record is complete and accurate,” Colwell said. “Transcripts are important for attorneys and defendants when used in appeals to reference back to trial testimony and arguments made. I have had transcripts ordered from trials and hearings from more than 15 years ago, and I am able to produce those for the party ordering.”


Courtroom staff are asked to perform a variety of duties and have an enormous amount of responsibility. They bring different skillsets and talents to enhance the productivity of their judicial division but Julie Bower, a courtroom assistant for Judge Michael Kemp who served 18 years with the Clerk of the Court and five years as a courtroom assistant, believes the key to success is simpler.


“I feel the best way for judicial staff to be successful is for everyone to work together and maintain a positive relationship. Not only do the relationships between members of the same division matter but judicial staff must maintain positive relations with other divisions because at times they need to help each other out,” Bower said.


Bower not only takes that approach with her colleagues but applies that same mindset to everyone she encounters in the courthouse.


“The best part of working with the court is the people. I really enjoy being a courtroom assistant because I get to talk to everyone who appears in court, and I get to know our jurors,” Bower said. “I am a people person, and making court customers feel comfortable and having jurors enjoy their service is what it’s all about.”

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