Norman Meyer - A Pioneer of Court Excellence

September 04, 2013

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Over the course of his extensive career, Norman Meyer has lived and worked all over the US while wanting nothing more than to return to his home state of New Mexico. From the beginning of his career, he spent ten years as a trial court administrator in the state courts of Oregon and Wisconsin, participating in innovative programs in jury, technology, case flow, public education and human resource management. Beginning in 1989, he spent seven years as the Chief Deputy Clerk of the U.S. District Court in Arizona. From 1996-2001, he was Clerk of the Court of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. Since 2001 Meyer has been the Clerk of the Court of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of New Mexico. For Meyer, professionally speaking, patience is not only a virtue, it is a requirement. When asked about the 24 years it took him to find a job that would bring him back to New Mexico, Meyer stated, “you have to be geographically flexible – you cannot and will not get the job you want right out of the chute.”

Meyer completed his undergraduate studies at the University of New Mexico in 1977, with degrees in both Political Science and Russian Studies. After graduation, he moved to Colorado to pursue his Juris Doctorate at the University of Denver. Upon completion of his first year of law school, however, he realized that, although he still wanted to work in a legal setting, becoming a lawyer was not the right fit. Never one to simply give up, he began to look around DU for an MBA program (or something similar) and discovered the law school had the MSJA Program. Meyer then met with Harry Lawson, then-director of the MSJA program, and was immediately sold on it as a career choice. He started the MSJA program that August and ended the program the following August. His career in the courts began when he was required to complete his externship at the Jefferson County Court in Golden, Colorado. He was then assigned to the Administrator’s office in Salem, Oregon for a summer internship (being assigned summer internships out of state was a common practice for the MSJA program at the time). After completing his MSJA degree, he applied for several jobs around the country – he laid bricks for income – until he finally landed a newly-created job as a district court administrator in Wausau, Wisconsin.

Throughout Meyer’s career in the courts, he has certainly found particular jobs more challenging than others. These experiences have led him to grow and to become a very successful and well-respected Court Administrator. While positioned as Clerk of the U.S. District Court in Eastern Virginia, (what Meyer states has been his most challenging job overall) he oversaw three separate court regional divisions, each 100 miles from each other. In addition to the troubles associated with keeping track of and traveling to each division, Meyer found the judges on the bench did not always cooperate well, which complicated decision-making. Furthermore, his predecessor as clerk had a history of discriminatory hiring practices, which upset Meyer and caused him to take action.
When asked what he believes is the hardest thing he’s had to do in his career, Meyer said that is to terminate an employee for non-performance related reasons, primarily budget concerns. Since taking care of staff is a leader’s prime concern (staff are your most important resource), for Meyer this is an emotional and horrible thing to have to put someone through, especially a dedicated, deserving employee.

In turn, Meyer has a true passion for public service and has found throughout his career he is most fulfilled when making the courts a better place for the public. He truly excels at this and has never forgotten he works for the tax-payers above everyone else. As a public servant, he draws inspiration from his grandfather, once a city councilman in St. James, Minnesota, who stated, “I have accepted a public trust and I will keep the faith.” Meyer himself has stated that, “every day, I work hard to fulfill the public’s trust in me and do my best to provide excellent public service while supporting and defending the Rule of Law. The Rule of Law is why I have a passion for what I do and it is why I am proud to be a court administrator. We in the courts work in the most important branch of government. It is our mission to protect the rights of our citizens, and without a strong judiciary, our democracy fails.” Moreover, Meyer is passionate about working and collaborating with the Sturm College of Law, attending events held by the MSLA Program as well as networking with MSLA students and alumni.

One exceptional area of work for Meyer has been participating in Rule of Law projects in Eastern Europe over the past 15 years. From teaching classes on case flow, I.T., and H.R. management to management reviews of trial courts to establishing model pilot courts, Meyer has worked in Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, Albania and Serbia. He is currently the Vice President for the North American Region of the International Association for Court Administration. At the MSLA-MSJA 40th Anniversary celebration earlier this year, Meyer was given the “Outstanding Achievement in International Court Administration” award.

Meyer’s involvement in and commitment to the National Association for Court Management (NACM) began in 1980. Meyer served on the NACM Board of Directors for seven years,
including as President of NACM in 1995-6. In July 2013 he received the NACM Award of Merit — which is NACM’s most prestigious individual award. When asked how he felt about accepting this award, Meyer was extremely humble, claiming that “[the] best kind of recognition you can ever get is from your peers. It’s really powerful.”

In closing, Meyer urges current MSLA students and recent graduates of the program to never limit themselves geographically. He credits much of his success as a Court Administrator to his flexibility and willingness to move to new places. It is imperative, according to Meyer, to be flexible in terms of career goals and location. A person who limits him or herself only limits the potential opportunities that can come his or her way. Maintaining a professional reputation and working hard is a necessity when applying and working for the judicial system. Meyer’s advice to students and graduates is to take the initiative and advantage of opportunities while NETWORKING as much as possible. When asked his opinion of the MSLA program, Meyer answered, “I think the program is on an upward arc, it’s doing very well and the alums are encouraged by the direction of the program today. We have hope for the future of the program with the great leadership on board.”