Mentoring in the Court

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Joey Carruesco HR Manager

Joey Carruesco
HR Manager

In late 2010, the Superior Court of Contra Costa was selected to participate in a Pilot Mentoring program for the California courts, under the auspices of the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) Access and Fairness Committee. Alameda, San Francisco and Solano courts joined us with the goal of developing a mentoring program for its employees to be instituted statewide after the conclusion of the pilot program.

The mentoring program is voluntary, and intended to assist with the participant’s professional development, increase diversity in all levels of the court, improve morale and increase the retention of our valued employees.

In March 2012, the Pilot Mentoring program was announced to all court employees. Following the announcement, a committee consisting of senior management was convened and given the difficult task of selecting the participants from among many qualified applicants to participate in the pilot program. The following mentor/mentee pairings were made in Contra Costa:

  • Mentor: Lucy Fogarty, Assistant Executive Officer, and
  • Mentee: Jocelyn Wallace-Lewis, Courtroom Clerk
  • Mentor: Mimi Lyster, Director of Court Planning and Special Projects, and
  • Mentee: Benna Young, Courtroom Clerk
  • Mentor: Judy Walker, Court Manager, and
  • Mentee: Vicki Leung, Information Systems Technician II

The three mentees were tasked with completing a special “project” or assignment that they would be presenting to the court’s Judicial Executive Committee. The mentors worked closely with the mentees to prepare them for their presentations.

In February 2013, all three of our mentees gave their presentations to the leadership judges at their monthly Executive Committee meeting. While this endeavor was undoubtedly intimidating, all three did a wonderful job in presenting their individual mentoring assignments. One of the participants spoke about succession planning; another spoke about overcoming her fear of public speaking, while another of our mentees described the complex matrix of how fees and fines are distributed.

Below are quotes from our mentees:

Overall the program has been beneficial. The program offers mentees a safe space to work on goals/issues a mentee may have. A mentee can explain why their goal is important to them. The mentor then offers suggestions and methods to conquer the goal, but at a pace the mentee can handle. A mentor does not judge, but offers insight that a mentee may not see or have. The program offers a mentee a chance to see things in a different light and/or offers them a chance to experience work outside their regular scope. ”  -Vicki Leung

It was an honor for me to participate in the pilot mentorship program. The mentorship program has given me a deeper understanding of my career on a local as well as a statewide level. On a local level I was able to spend time with our financial services learning about the complex distribution of our collected court fines and fees. While on the state level I was able to attend a judicial council meeting, tour the Court of Appeals as well as tour the Administrative Offices of the Court. The unexpected gift the program provided was an actual mentor; a person that you could speak with confidentially and candidly about your thoughts, fears, and aspirations regarding working at the court. The mentorship program was all that I had hoped for and so much more.” - Jocelyn Wallace-Lewis

Overall, I think this mentor project was really positive. In my view, any time we can show our commitment to our staff, their enthusiasm will be shared and passed around, which will benefit the court. We can do so much mentoring informally through our everyday encounters! The fact that this program is continuing helps me to be very encouraged about our future, because judges, administrators, and participants are so dedicated to its success.” - Benna Young

The mentors and mentees averaged between six and 14 face-to-face meetings over the pilot program period, and between five and 25 email/telephone sessions. Contra Costa will now begin another phase of new mentoring relationships. Based on the overwhelming success of our pilot program, we have also recommended that the Judicial Council consider implementing a statewide Mentorship program for all 58 courts. This item is currently on their December agenda. Stay tuned!

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