Beranek, a pioneer in judicial education, retires

first_imgBeranek, a pioneer in judicial education, retires Beranek, a pioneer in judicial education, retires Amy K. Brown Assistant Editor Just more than a year after Florida’s court system suffered a terrible loss when cancer claimed State Courts Administrator Ken Palmer, the state’s judicial system will lose another key player later this month. Deputy State Courts Administrator Dee Beranek, who has been with the Office of the State Courts Administrator for 19 years, is retiring effective June 15.“Florida has the best judicial system in the nation,” said 12th Judicial Circuit Judge Scott Brownell, first dean of the Florida College of Advanced Judicial Studies and former chair of the Education Section of the Florida Conference of Circuit Judges. “If you went back to the moment when each successful part of our system was created, you would find Dee Beranek. . . . [H]er genius is that she can identify a new program critical to judges, design the program on the back of a file folder, spot the perfect team to teach the program, and recruit and inspire these people to do a superb job, all in the space of a 10 minute conversation that usually begins about something else, like the weather.”And that is how Beranek is known throughout the state judicial system: as an inspiring educator, a sharp legal mind, and the person whose enthusiasm for judicial education became infectious.“Dee has given unexcelled service to Florida’s court system over such a long period of time that I really do not know how she’s going to be replaced,” said Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Wells. “She particularly has served Florida by her work in judicial education, which is recognized throughout the United States as being the very best judicial education system. We will miss her.”Born in California and raised in St. Augustine, Beranek reached OSCA through a rather circuitous route.“Before I went to law school, I ran a therapeutic program for severely emotionally disabled children, and I did that for almost 10 years in Georgia,” she said. “Certainly, working with kids and education is really my first love. . . . I decided to go to law school because I felt like I had hit a plateau in my career. I had to make some decisions: either get a doctorate and stay in that field, or do something that I felt was a way of using my existing skills productively and further developing.”Beranek enrolled in Mercer University’s law school in 1980, with the intention of becoming an advocate for handicapped children. But, when she moved to Tallahassee after graduation, fate conspired to change her plans.“I heard about this job, and it was combining education and law. The job itself was director of judicial education,” she said. “I applied, and I was amazed when I got it, but it turned out to be a great blend of my past experience and my legal training.”Beranek excelled in the position, and in 1987 she was given additional legal and management responsibilities as director of legal affairs and education.“As things evolved here, I assumed more responsibility for more administrative work, including legal affairs,” she said. “As time went on, the need for legal support in the administrative functions of the court became more and more apparent.”Palmer was the first nonlawyer Florida state courts administrator, and where he lacked legal knowledge, Beranek stepped in to fill those gaps. Within a few years, she was appointed deputy state courts administrator.Her continuing involvement with judicial education over the past two decades, including her work with the Florida Court Education Council, has produced numerous nationally recognized programs, including the Florida Judicial College for new judges, the mentor program for new trial court judges, the Florida College of Advanced Judicial Studies, circuit and county judge education programs, the appellate education program, and faculty development workshops.But, Beranek is quick to shy away from the spotlight.“I don’t feel like I have a legacy,” she said. “My responsibility is providing administrative support to the courts, as is everybody’s here.”Since Beranek joined the ranks of OSCA, Florida has made judicial education a priority. The state has gone from offering 200 instructional hours per year to state court judges and select court personnel to currently offering more than 1,000 instructional hours per year, and Beranek touts this as her greatest accomplishment.“I think that probably the contribution I feel most proud of, what my staff and I have been able to accomplish, is further developing the educational curricula for judges,” she said. “I think we have a real commitment to the notion that, from the time someone is appointed or elected, and then throughout their career as a judge, they should have the opportunity to acquire the knowledge and the skills they need not just to perform competently, but to feel really good about their jobs. . . and further develop personally and professionally through an extensive educational curricula, so they feel like they not only can stay current and perform their jobs as the citizens of Florida expect, but have a way of feeling excited about their work.”Beranek’s sphere of influence in the court system grew over the years, and she served as an active member of the Florida Supreme Court Gender Bias Study Implementation Commission, the Florida Supreme Court Commission on Fairness, The Florida Bar Rules of Judicial Administration Committee, the Board of Trustees for the National Judicial College, and the Second Judicial Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission.“She is one of the best and has distinguished herself as a judicial educator for the National Judicial College and for the Leadership Institute for Judicial Education,” said Justice Major Harding, who worked with Beranek when he was the first dean of the Florida Judicial College. “She has been a wonderful asset for judicial education throughout the nation and most particularly for Florida.”Travel and relaxation are on the agenda for Beranek’s retirement, and she and her husband John Beranek, an appellate attorney in Tallahassee, have already made plans for her first major trip out West this summer. She also plans to spend more time with her daughter, who is attending graduate school in Georgia.“I’ve been thinking about it for a long time,” she said. “I guess as you get older. . . you feel more and more conflicted about having to make choices between your work and your family. . . . “You just become so aware that time is limited and you want an opportunity to do something besides work.”Don’t expect Beranek to stay out of the judicial system long, though. She plans to offer her services as a consultant in the area of court education. She’ll miss the work, she says, but it’s her fellow OSCA employees who will leave the biggest gap in her life.“The folks here work so incredibly hard, and we don’t tell them often enough how much we appreciate their efforts and how tremendously valuable they are,” she said. “In the contribution they make to the courts, they are so committed to their work, and they are proud of their work.. . . “I’m not sure the folks who work for me know how much I care for them. My biggest regret is that I don’t tell them, and I don’t let them know just what a tremendous privilege it’s been to work with them.” June 1, 2002 Assistant Editor Regular Newslast_img read more