Florida Court PIOs recognize members, others for ‘excellence in communications’
The Florida Court Public Information Officers (FCPIO) held a virtual awards ceremony April 7. The FCPIO board recognized members for outstanding public service and work above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a public information officer or court communications professional.
FCPIO also recognized other groups and individuals who have made significant contributions that further FCPIO’s mission and court communications in Florida.
The ceremony was hosted by FCPIO President Sara Miles. The 2021 award recipients are:
- Judicial Outreach Award: Leon County Judge Nina Ashenafi Richardson, Florida’s Second Judicial Circuit. Judge Ashenafi Richardson chaired the Education and Outreach Workgroup of Florida’s Judicial Management Council which wrote the 2016 Communication Plan for the Judicial Branch of Florida. Judge Ashenafi Richardson has continued to champion the communication plan and the work of court public information officers among her fellow judges and within her local court.
- Lifetime Achievement Award: Craig Waters, public information officer, Florida Supreme Court. Waters is the current executive director and founder of FCPIO. His work in the field of court communications extends beyond Florida. He is well-known nationally and internationally for crisis communications, handling high-profile cases, official court use of social media platforms, and many other topics. FCPIO has grown and succeeded under his guidance and direction. He retires from the Florida Supreme Court in February 2022.
- Excellence in Communications Award: The following individuals and teams were recognized for outstanding public service during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic by successfully communicating health and safety protocols and information about the courts with jurors, the public, and media under unique and ever-changing circumstances using video technology.
• Christy Cain & Court Technology Office, Eighth Judicial Circuit of Florida
• Communications Team, Ninth Judicial Circuit of Florida
• Tracy Skeen, 10th Judicial Circuit of Florida
• Eunice Sigler, 11th Judicial Circuit of Florida
• Donna Rhodes, 12th Judicial Circuit of Florida
• Communications Team, 13th Judicial Circuit of Florida
• Amber Baggett, 14th Judicial Circuit of Florida
• Communications Team, 15th Judicial Circuit of Florida
- Excellence in Communications Award: Dr. Beth Schwartz, court publications writer, the Office of the State Courts Administrator. Dr. Schwartz worked tirelessly for 16 years writing and producing multiple court publications, including annual reports, a quarterly statewide newsletter, and numerous other court news stories for publication. Her efforts documented the work of Florida’s court system that will serve as a go-to resource for others on a wide variety of topics. She retires in August 2021.
- Excellence in Communications Award: Emilie Rietow, education and outreach administrator, Florida Supreme Court. Rietow successfully transitioned the Florida Supreme Court tour program from in-person to virtual programming.
- Excellence in Communications Award: Communications Teams of Florida Courts, The Florida Bar, and Florida Court Clerks & Comptrollers. This joint effort created the Know Your Courts Safe Steps public service announcement video message campaign to educate citizens about the steps courts are taking to protect the public’s health when visiting a courthouse.
- Trial Court Outreach Award: Fourth Judicial Circuit of Florida for demonstrating a commitment to improving court and media relations and community outreach. Judges and court staff worked with the press to address specific questions and provided tours of the courthouse to school groups, civic organizations, youth programs and others. Access to the courts and public trust and confidence are emphasized during educational programs.
- Outstanding Leadership Award: Francine Andia Walker, public information officer, The Florida Bar. Walker is recognized for her support of FCPIO’s mission and her four-year service as secretary of the FCPIO. She retires from The Florida Bar in July 2021.
The FCPIO awards ceremony is normally held during its annual education meeting. The annual meeting has been on hold since the pandemic began in March 2020, however the FCPIO board felt it was important to continue to recognize its members and partners for the important work they do in Florida’s courts.
In 2016, the Florida Supreme Court charged FCPIO membership with implementing the landmark Court Communication Plan. The 2016 Court Communication Plan has become a model for courts around the nation. It stresses the greater use of court PIOs to provide information to the press and the public about what Florida’s state courts do.
FCPIO’s latest effort, Court News Florida, available at CourtNewsFlorida.org, is the culmination of five years of activities delineated by the plan.