This Guide outlines recent and ongoing Trial Court efforts focused on diversity, equity, inclusion, and experience. The final section of the Guide outlines planned activities for the upcoming fiscal year.
Guide Diversity, equity, inclusion, and experience activities in the Trial Court
Table of Contents
Strategic plan: diversity, equity, and inclusion domain
In July 2016, the Executive Office of the Massachusetts Trial Court published its second strategic plan, Strategic Plan 2.0, which reflected the collective priorities of the Court. Recognizing that Strategic Plan 2.0 did not fully capture the Trial Court’s commitment to deliver quality justice, the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Domain was developed in Strategic Plan 2.1 to address bias, embrace diversity, equity, and inclusion, and eradicate discrimination. By embedding this work into the strategic plan, Trial Court leaders can better ensure the focus and attention needed to increase organizational capacity, highlight best practices and address concerns. Elements of the plan include building leadership capacity, reviewing policies, and building operational capacity to support the experience of all court users. Strategic Plan 2020-2022 is currently in development and set to launch late 2019. The Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Domain will serve as the central framework that guides the next phase of the Trial Court’s vision.
Annual diversity report
In 2018, the Trial Court published its first Annual Diversity Report. The report is intended to foster more transparency and awareness of the Trial Court’s overall demographics and work on diversity and inclusion. Data in the report includes a snapshot of the Trial Court workforce at the end of the fiscal year, total hires and promotions by race and gender within the fiscal year, and five years of data for selected positions. In addition, the report provides a comparison of court staffing to workforce availability data from the 2010 census, which establishes a benchmark level. The report also presents an overview of efforts in the organization to address issues of race and gender diversity.
In early 2016, each Departmental Chief Justice formed a committee or designated an existing committee to examine issues related to race and implicit bias within the department. The chairs of each departmental committee form an oversight committee called the Trial Court Race and Implicit Bias Advisory Committee (TRIBAC). TRIBAC includes judges from all court departments, and other committees include Clerks, Probation staff and Security staff. These groups all work to inform Trial Court practices and guide efforts to advance relative to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Leadership committees continue to meet monthly to educate and learn more on issues related to race and implicit bias and inform our strategic efforts.
Signature counter experience training (SCE)
SCE is an interactive training that is facilitated system-wide to support the ongoing work of Court staff who do their best to be supportive of each other and of Court users. This training reinforces the fact that most Court employees are knowledgeable and dedicated to customer service, while allowing them to reflect on their practices and experiences to increase the effectiveness of their interactions with each other and Court users. Court staff from the Clerk’s Department, Probation Department, Security Department, and the Judge’s lobby participate in this program together to better understand the importance of teamwork. The next iteration of SCE, focusing on race and cultural experiences, will be facilitated late 2019.
In January 2018, the Trial Court launched a required online training for all employees to provide better understanding and insight as to how transgender persons experience the Court system as Court users or employees. Guidance is provided to understand our expectations that all members of the transgender community are treated with dignity and respect. This training was developed by leaders across Court departments with grant funding from the Boston Bar Foundation. The Boston Bar Foundation also supported the use of pronoun pins that allow staff to demonstrate inclusiveness by wearing their pronouns. If your organization is interested in viewing this training, see Transgender People in the Trial Court.
Internal listening sessions
Trial Court leaders held a series of internal listening sessions to obtain employee perspectives on the issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion. The sessions shared the Court’s efforts to advance work on these topics and their importance, and solicited suggestions on how to engage employees and court users in this work. Future efforts will continue to seek employee feedback on personal experiences and the impact of creating a welcoming and supportive environment.
Cultural appreciation events
In order to celebrate the cultural traditions and practices of court employees, the Trial Court and Probation Department held a series of statewide events of cultural sharing at 80 court locations for a Cultural Appreciation Day in September 2017. Events included food, music, clothing, literature, and dance. September 2018 events expanded the celebration to a week of activities to engage local communities and hold more than 60 events with Court leaders across the state. The celebrations included two Naturalization ceremonies during which 70 new American citizens were sworn in.
Leadership capacity building workshops
Massachusetts is engaged in cutting edge work that builds leadership’s capacity to address issues of race and bias. These workshops are designed to enable people occupying formal and informal leadership positions to build the capacity of other Trial Court employees to address race and bias, advance diversity, equity, and inclusion, and integrate those concerns into regular practice. More than 30 people from across the Trial Court were identified to participate in a new workshop in FY2019.
New policies governing sexual harassment and discrimination
A new working group was created in early 2018 to draft new Employment Discrimination and Sexual Harassment Policies and Procedures. The Trial Court will promulgate the new policies during FY2019. These policies will define a process for employees to file a complaint, as well as timelines for review and investigation. In order to support these new policies, the Trial Court has appointed a Director of Compliance and Investigations to create protocols and related training, as well as direct the establishment of the new Department of Compliance and Investigations.
Implicit bias training for security staff
In February 2019, the Trial Court launched an implicit bias training program for mid-level security personnel. The training aims to increase awareness of perceptions of racial and other biases by court personnel and court users. The goals of the training are for security personnel to gain better understanding of their own biases, develop new skills to have important conversations about race and racial bias, and the impact of bias within the organization and day to day operational practices.
Access and fairness survey
The Massachusetts Trial Court administered the Access and Fairness Survey in 2009 and 2017 to measure its progress towards ensuring access to justice and improving the court user experience. Court user ratings on access to justice measures and overall fairness scores increased from 2009 to 2017. The Court will use these findings to shape and refine the Trial Court’s priorities and focus, including the need to ensure access, fairness, and a positive court experience for all court users.
Additional Resources for Access and fairness survey
Plans for fiscal year 2020 (July 2019-June 2020)
Community engagement sessions
The Trial Court will conduct community engagement sessions to obtain first-hand accounts of how people experience and perceive the court system. These forums will build understanding of the aspects of the court system that court users and communities most want to question, learn and discuss.
Community outreach pilot with the National Center for State Courts (NCSC)
In a pilot community engagement project with the National Center for State Courts, the Trial Court will expand outreach at the local and state levels. Pilot sites of Springfield, Holyoke, and Chicopee will provide an initial focus to inform statewide efforts. Outreach will involve community leaders, the general public, local court leaders, bar associations, criminal justice partners, and court management on issues of race and bias, understanding of the court system, and the role each entity plays. NCSC will provide technical assistance and evaluate Trial Court efforts at the conclusion of the pilot.
“Jobs in the Trial Court”
The Trial Court is partnering with the Massachusetts Bar Association to introduce a program, “Jobs in the Trial Court.” Forums will be hosted by the Bar and supported by the Court to introduce the court and potential job opportunities. Judges and Clerks will participate to explain their roles and their perspectives on career advancement in the court. This program is intended to simplify and demystify the application process and provide additional information about the merits and nobility of working in the Trial Court.
Increased education and training
Training efforts in FY2019 include enhanced employee training focused on issues of race, equal employment opportunity training for managers, and diversity and cultural competency training to broaden the understanding of employees on how people of different cultures may approach the world in different ways and to increase understanding of what that means in daily interactions.