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18Apr2013

Robert Wessels, National Leader in Court Management and Information Sharing, Selected for SEARCH’s 2013 Cooper Award

Robert Wessels

Robert Wessels

Mr. Robert Wessels, Vice Chair of the Texas Judicial Committee on Information Technology, will receive SEARCH’s top Membership honor—the 2013 Gary R. Cooper Meritorious Service Award.

The SEARCH Board of Directors selected Mr. Wessels for this honor during their January 2013 Winter Meeting in Portland, Oregon. The Cooper Award is one of three national awards SEARCH presents each year, and recognizes a SEARCH Member’s outstanding work in the field of criminal justice information systems, policy or statistics, and on behalf of SEARCH.

“Through his many years of work in Texas and on behalf of the nation, Bob epitomizes the standards embodied in the Cooper Award,” noted SEARCH Chairman Francis X. Aumand III, who nominated him for the award.

Nationally, Bob is considered a leader in helping to modernize and to promote the best practices in court automation. He is also known for his commitment to the field of court management…, his advocacy for the profession of court management, and as an expert in areas critical to court management and court information sharing.
Francis X. Aumand III (Vermont), SEARCH Chairman

‘Huge Impact’ at Local, State, National Levels

Until his retirement in 2011, Mr. Wessels was Court Manager of the Harris County (Texas) Office of Court Management for more than three decades. It is in court management, automation, and information sharing that Mr. Wessels has made a “huge impact” at the local and state levels, according to Mr. Aumand.

Mr. Wessels—

  • Served the courts of Harris County for 37 years, 35 of them as the county’s first court manager. He developed an effective staff that gained a reputation for their ground-breaking work in what is now recognized as the leading web-based courts intelligence system in the country.
  • Became a leading figure in the State of Texas in court and justice system improvement.
  • Led efforts on the national level to modernize and promote best practices in court automation, and supported the field and profession of court management, which had a positive impact on courts across the country.
  • Is an expert in areas critical to court management and court information sharing—expertise that he shares through his body of work and leadership in national initiatives.

In addition to his years of work in Texas and on behalf of the nation, the SEARCH Board recognizes Mr. Wessels for his commitment to and leadership within SEARCH. In his dozen years as an appointed At-Large Member, he has become an important part of this organization:

Even before his appointment to SEARCH, Mr. Wessels was contributing to SAERCH efforts in his role as a court expert. In 1997, he chaired the National Task Force on Court Automation and Integration, which was formed in connection with the Court Information Systems Technical Assistance Project, a joint effort of SEARCH and the Bureau of Justice Assistance, U.S. Department of Justice. Other project participants included the National Center for State Courts (NCSC), the National Association for Court Management (NACM), and the Conference of State Court Administrators (COSCA). Under his leadership, this task force worked to develop a strategic blueprint to guide court agencies through the process of integration.

Continued Advocacy

Mr. Wessels continues his advocacy for court information sharing even in retirement. His involvement on the Texas Judicial Committee on Information Technology supports that body’s efforts to establish standards and guidelines for the systematic implementation and integration of information technology into the trial and appellate courts in Texas.

Mr. Wessels is also a past president and board member of NACM, served on the Board of NCSC, and was a member for many years of NACM/COSCA’s Joint Technology Committee. He received the 2011 Warren E. Burger Award from the NCSC in recognition of his significant contributions to the field of court administration.

Mr. Aumand noted that Mr. Wessels is “also known for his quality of character and willingness to provide counsel and advice that inspires trust and confidence.”

SEARCH presented the 2013 Cooper Award to Mr. Wessels during an awards reception July 23 during our Annual Membership Group Meeting in Sacramento, California.

The SEARCH Membership Group, which governs SEARCH, is comprised of one gubernatorial appointee from each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the territories, as well as eight at-large appointees selected by SEARCH’s Chair. This national body of state-level professionals is widely representative of the various disciplines within the justice system, and many are responsible for operational decisions and policymaking concerning the management of criminal justice information, particularly criminal history information. The Membership Group fosters cooperation and communication among justice system professionals in identifying and implementing solutions to common problems.
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