Monday, September 2, 2013

Tim Murray Steps Down


Last week brought news that Tim Murray will step down as the head of the Pretrial Justice Institute in 2014.  This is a big loss for the field -- and for me personally.  I've mentioned Tim in passing on this blog in the past as someone I admire, but this just scratches the surface.

I first met Tim during the Clinton years, when he served as the deputy director of the Bureau of Justice Assistance in the US Department of Justice.  He had been a key player in setting up the first drug court in Florida.  My first encounters with him were part of a concerted effort to get BJA interested in the Midtown Community Court.   As a drug court guy, Tim might have viewed the community court model with suspicion.  But that isn't how Tim views the world -- he isn't a narrow thinker.  Instead of competition, he saw John Feinblatt, Eric Lee, and the rest of us at the Center for Court Innovation as allies and comrades in arms.  

As I got to know Tim better, I saw that this was typical of him.  While he is capable of sarcasm and a certain world-weariness that probably comes from operating at a high level in government and the non-profit sector for decades, behind that is a genuine idealism and a generosity of spirit.  Over the years, I have been the beneficiary of both of these qualities.  Tim has given his time whenever I have asked it of him -- to be interviewed as part of our study of criminal justice leadership, to facilitate a roundtable on statewide coordination of problem-solving courts, or to pick his brain on various controversies of the moment.    

Tim was particularly important to me when I first became the director of the Center for Court Innovation 12 years ago.  He was still at BJA at that point.  I made a special trip down to Washington DC to reassure him that the Center was in good hands and that our work in partnership with BJA would continue.  I don't remember the details, but I do remember that he gave me a hard time for the first 30 minutes -- testing my knowledge, seeing how I reacted to a stressful situation -- before ending with a note of real support and encouragement.

That particular meeting set the pattern for our relationship.  I have always found Tim challenging in the best sense of the word -- he continually challenges me to be the best leader of the Center that I can be.  I will miss him and I wish him nothing but the best going forward.