Bruce T. Beesley, Chief Judge, U.S. Bankruptcy Court and
Gloria M. Navarro, Chief Judge, U.S. District Court
Mary A. Schott, Clerk of Court , U.S. Bankruptcy Court and Chad Boardman, Chief Probation Officer
Divisional Offices: Main Office - Las Vegas Divisional Office - Reno
Authorized Judgeships: 4 full time Bankruptcy Judges and 1 Recall Bankruptcy Judge
Number of Employees: Bankruptcy Court - 40 Clerk's Office staff & 12 Judges and Chambers staff,
Probation - 57 employees
NCBC Local Representative: Maria Garrett
Court units in Nevada have enjoyed historically collaborative relationships. Approximately two years ago, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court and the U.S. Probation Office, which are located in the same building in Las Vegas, Nevada, took their collaboration a step further when they merged their Information Technology departments. A union between the Probation Office and the U.S. Bankruptcy Court is uncommon, but in 2016, Mary Schott, Clerk of U.S. Bankruptcy Court, and Chad Boardman, Chief U.S. Probation Officer, agreed that the merger could significantly benefit both court units long term.
The Bankruptcy Court in Nevada has significant volatility in case filings year-to-year, which causes swings in caseload and associated funding for staff. Despite the swings, the Bankruptcy Court had built a strong IT team with various specialized skill sets to handle all needs of the court unit. The Bankruptcy Court had also identified IT staffing needs that they were unwilling to reduce despite the potential caseload swings. To maintain the IT department size, however, could require deeper cuts in other organizational areas. The opportunity to share the cost of the existing IT personnel with the Probation Office and perhaps add staff for even greater specialization was appealing. At the opposite end of the spectrum, in 2016, the Probation Office maintained a very small IT department creating financial flexibility, and an IT Manager set to retire. The small size of the Probation Office’s IT department resulted in reduced service levels overall, and a lack of expertise in some areas. The Probation Office wanted to increase the size of their IT team to better serve the court unit, but the process of building that team with a new manager and the right personnel was challenging. The opportunity to join an established IT team was appealing. Although both court units could envision certain efficiencies of scale in staffing costs and potential service level improvements, a significant factor in the initial discussions to merge was the strong, trusting, professional relationship between the court unit executives. The two court units had experience working together with a shared phone system, a website project, courthouse security issues, joint staff training, shared training space, internal audits, and human resources issues.
In the summer of 2016, in conjunction with the retirement of the Probation Office’s IT Manager, the two units merged their IT departments into a single Department of Information Technology (DoIT), which would now be led by the Bankruptcy Court’s IT Manager. The Probation Office’s remaining IT employee was moved to the Bankruptcy Court IT space to create a collaborative environment between the new IT members.
As anticipated, progress during the first year was slow as the IT Director analyzed Probation Office systems for the first time, evaluated the skill sets of his enhanced IT team, considered employee duties and assignments, and evaluated systems, hardware and other areas where our court units could work together, improve service, or save money. However, even simple tasks took time. For example, the new IT department members had to learn the needs, functions, and office jargon in the new court units. There were also unique and very different employee requirements in the two court units. Probation Officers perform their work in the community and have significant mobile IT needs, while Bankruptcy Court employees rely heavily on office-based technology and systems to manage the large volume of document filing.
Future savings are anticipated as the new Department purchases hardware and software together and realizes general savings due to efficiencies of scale. However, there are other advantages that may be less obvious. Due to the very different workload data used to fund the court units, there is hope that the two units could help each other weather short-term, fiscal year funding storms without sacrificing IT jobs or department stability. There have been noticeable, short-term wins, too. For example, approximately $50,000 in funding was secured to assist in the cost of a switch replacement for the Probation Office, and significant overtime utility costs have been avoided after consolidation of server rooms. Further, the units have already experienced benefits in licensing costs and purchasing in certain areas. The Memorandum Of Understanding for the combined court units is updated annually to clarify or modify expectations. Consistent collaboration between the Court Unit Executives is extremely important as they continue to learn, avoid obstacles, and prioritize the work of the IT department, but they are committed to the success of the relationship.