Category Archives: Courts

State Court Organization

Source: S. Strickland, R. Schauffler, R. LaFountain & K. Holt, eds., National Center for State Courts, Last updated 06 March 2013

State Court Organization (SCO) presents detailed comparative data about how state trial and appellate courts are organized and administered in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and the territories of Guam and Northern Mariana Islands. With topics ranging from the types of courts established in each state to specific aspects of law or procedure, State Court Organization is the source for authoritative answers to fundamental questions about the operations of each state’s court system.

For the first time, the information compiled for SCO is available through a web-based, interactive application that allows users to customize the display of data so that it best answers their questions. Comparison is facilitated by the ability of users to sort and filter data to focus on specific issues of interest and characteristics of courts. This new, interactive approach to State Court Organization information facilitates the examination of differing state approaches to court administration and related procedures and rules.
Interactive State Court Organization App
Sections include:

Judicial Branch Governance
Provides information on the governance, funding, and administration of the judicial branch. Tables address topics such as the procedures of judicial nomination, compensation, and evaluation commissions; judicial education and judicial discipline policies; media coverage of the courts; and the use of interpreters and guardians.

Appellate Courts
Provides information on the structure, staffing, and procedures of the nation’s appellate courts. Tables address the number of appellate courts and judges, the selection process and qualifications needed to be an appellate judge, the selection process and number of appellate court clerks, size of the legal staff, the responsibilities of chief judges and clerk offices, and the procedures for oral argument and expediting appeals.

Trial Courts
Provides information on the structure, staffing, and procedures of the nation’s trial courts. Tables address topics such as the number of trial courts and judges; the selection process and qualifications needed to be a trial judge; the number, selection process, and responsibilities of trial court administrators and trial court clerks; the selection and responsibilities of presiding judges; and information on specialty courts (problem-solving) as well as specialty jurisdiction (death penalty).

Provides information on the jury process in trial courts. Tables address topics such as the grand jury; juror selection, exemption, and qualifications; the number of peremptory challenges per case type; and jury size, procedures, and verdict rules per case type.

Provides information on the types of technology utilized by the nation’s trial and appellate courts. Tables address topics such as the use and capabilities of case management, e-filing, and jury management systems; the external exchange of and public access to court data; and the selection and responsibilities of chief information officers.

Implementation of Anti-Discrimination Policy: Does Judicial Selection Matter?

Source: Timothy Besley, American Law and Economics Review, February 28, 2013
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Legislation to limit workplace discrimination is among the most common reforms in labor market policy of the past 50 years. Its effectiveness depends on enforcement of the legislation by state and federal agencies and, ultimately, the courts. This paper uses information on discrimination charges in the United States between 1973 and 2000 to analyze whether the number of charges filed is correlated with the method by which state judges are selected. We find evidence that states that appoint their judges have significantly fewer anti-discrimination charges being filed.

Funding Justice: Strategies and Messages for Restoring Court Funding

Source: Justice at Stake and National Center for State Courts, 2012

From the summary:
Early in 2012, NCSC joined forces with Justice at Stake to examine what strategies and messages could help courts make a stronger case for court funding.

Together we commissioned a nationwide opinion research project to understand how to better tell the story of the courts–to the public, the media, and the legislators who shape budgets. The project included research, focus groups, a nationwide poll of American voters, and one-on-one interviews with Chief Justices, legislators, and others who have been closely involved in the debates around court funding in the states.

The resulting guide — Funding Justice: Strategies and Messages for Restoring Court Funding — builds on more than a year of work. It contains important lessons, some of them counter-intuitive, about how people view the courts and their funding needs. It explains how to tell the story of the courts, and why they matter, in an era when the public is very focused on government austerity. It includes a section on working with budget policymakers, based on interviews conducted around the country.

The recommendations that underlie Sections 1 and 2 of this guide are based on findings from focus groups and a national public opinion survey. Six focus groups were held in Richmond, Virginia; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; and Phoenix, Arizona, between February 13-23, 2012. The public opinion survey of 1,000 registered voters was conducted between April 2-5, 2012. Recommendations within Section 3 are based on extensive telephone interviews between representatives of GBA Strategies and budget policymakers in the states of Kentucky, Oregon and Utah. Those interviews included state Chief Justices, state court administrators, legislators, legislative staff, and others with an intimate knowledge of the court budgeting process.

Keeping Courts Funded: Recommendations on How Courts Can Avoid the Budget Axe

Source: Greg A. Rowe, Harvard Kennedy School, National Center for State Courts, Bureau of Justice Assistance, State Justice Institute, Executive Session for State Court Leaders in the 21st Century, Perspectives On State Court Leadership Series, 2012

From the abstract:
In Keeping Courts Funded: Recommendations on How Courts Can Avoid the Budget Axe, executive branch policy and legislation advisor Greg A. Rowe provides 16 specific recommendations on how judicial branch leaders should interact with members of the state executive and legislative branch over budget issues. Recommendations include advice on how to understand the political environment, develop relationships with key groups and individuals, create a coherent communication strategy, and engage with the other branches during the budget process. As states apply these recommendations to their individual circumstances, a framework for advocacy efforts emerges.

Race and Gender Bias in Three Administrative Contexts: Impact on Work Assignments in State Supreme Courts

Source: Robert K. Christensen, John Szmer and Justin M. Stritch, Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, Vol. 22, No. 4, October 2012
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Do certain types of administrative processes better inhibit race and gender prejudices that may surface in the public workplace? We compare the effects of three distinct administrative settings on race, gender, and other biases in the workload assignments of state supreme court justices–important public policy making settings that have been understudied in public administration. In particular, we model the extent to which majority opinion-writing assignment processes exhibit prejudice in states that use randomized assignments, rotated assignments, or fully discretionary assignments, respectively. Our findings confirm that administrative process matters. We use theories of status characteristics and administrative oversight to explain the relationship between administrative context and workload assignment patterns. Based on data from all 50 states, we discover that prejudice exists but that certain administrative processes serve better than others to suppress race and gender biases.

Our study explores whether certain types of administrative processes in the public workplace can inhibit managers from acting on personal race- and gender-based prejudices. Public administrators routinely face competing value priorities, and these can include personal biases and self-interests. Scholars and practitioners therefore have an abiding interest in public servants’ discretion and factors that influence the exercise thereof.

Research on street-level bureaucrats suggests that public administrators exercise discretion in a variety of ways.1 Public servants make choices that are other-serving, often assuming the role of citizen advocates, even if it means acting beyond the rules. Extending representative bureaucracy theory, researchers also demonstrate that public servants can use discretion to actively improve services and outcomes for citizens …

Sue Me? Not A Chance This Year

Source: Alan Greenblatt, NPR, April 12, 2012

If you feel like suing somebody, you’d better be patient.

Due to state budget woes, courts all across the country are cutting back on personnel and the number of hours or even days that they’re open. That’s causing long delays, especially when it comes to civil litigation….Courts in Kansas will be closed this Friday — the first of five Fridays the courts will shut down over the next two months, the result of furloughs for 1,500 state employees….Kansas is only the latest state to reduce access to its court system due to budget cuts of up to 30 percent. Courts in Oregon will be closed for even more Fridays this year. One circuit in Georgia stopped hearing civil cases altogether to devote its remaining time and attention to criminal cases. Cases in some parts of North Carolina and Ohio ground to a halt completely because the courts couldn’t afford to buy paper.
See also:
National Center for State Courts, State Courts and the Economy, Volume 4, Number 3, May 3, 2012
The newsletter contains:
Law Day 2012 Focuses on Court Budget Crisis
Reduced Court Budgets Have Lasting Effects
California Court Leaders Make Their Case
State-by-State Budget News

Report of the Executive Committee on the Impact of Recent Budget Cuts in New York State Court Funding

Source: New York State Bar Association (NYSBA), January 2012

Although courthouse architecture historically has inspired confidence in our court system, adequate funding is essential at the present time to rebuild an eroded sense of public confidence. The impact of reductions in funding for New York State courts during the 2011-2012 year has been substantially harmful and far-reaching.

• First, the courts are less efficient, and judicial decision making is less expedient…
• Second, the need to provide justice to all, particularly to the disadvantaged – though greater than ever in this economic downturn – is not being met…
• Third, the courts’ ability to protect and serve the public has been negatively impacted…

In all of these ways, recent reductions in state court funding have been quite costly. Although state fiscal constraints are very real in this economy, additional and imminent investment in the state court system is necessary. It is necessary to restore a sense of confidence in the judicial system, which ultimately is priceless.
Justice Delayed, Lawyers Unpaid?
Source: Jennifer Smith, Wall Street Journal, Law Blog, February 9, 2012

Toll of Trauma

Source: Dianne Molvig, Wisconsin Lawyer, December 2011

A groundbreaking study of Wisconsin State Public Defender attorneys examines the effects of “compassion fatigue” – the cumulative physical, emotional, and psychological effects resulting from continual exposure to others’ traumatic experiences. This article discusses factors contributing
to the risk any lawyer may face of experiencing its symptoms, and what can be done to mitigate it.

Kansas District Court Judicial and Clerk Staff Weighted Caseload Study – Report to the Supreme Court of Kansas

Source: Suzanne Tallarico, National Center for State Courts, October 31, 2011

In December 2010, the Kansas Supreme Court, recognizing the need to continually assess the efficiency and effectiveness of Judicial Branch operations, initiated what has become known as the Pegasus Project. Understanding that any comprehensive review of the Judicial Branch would require an accurate assessment of the staffing needs of the courts, the Supreme Court contracted with the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) to conduct a “weighted caseload study” (WCLS). This type of study has been recommended since at least 1944 in previous studies of court operations in Kansas.

Case filing data is not an accurate measure of the workload of the courts. Case weights recognize that different types of cases take different amounts of time to process effectively. The WCLS utilized by the NCSC is the recognized model for calculation of judicial officer and court clerk workload. A WCLS provides accurate information from which staffing needs may be considered.

In Defense of the Courts: Symposium Finds No Easy Way to Fund Courts

Source: James Podgers, ABA Journal, November 1, 2011

Evidence of the growing financial crisis looming over state courts around the country continues to roll in….The need to build coalitions to advocate for the courts was a key element in a resolution by the justice system task force that was approved in August by the ABA House of Delegates. The policy also calls on courts and bar associations to develop effective strategies for communicating with the public and legislators on the issue, and it urges courts to develop best practices for the efficient use of court resources….

…Since it’s difficult for members of the judiciary to lobby legislators, Chemerinsky said, the organized bar is the natural advocacy group to speak on behalf of the courts. Still, the bar is struggling to convince legislators and the public that court viability is crucial both to individual rights and the interests of the business community.

The task is not getting any easier, he said, as the number of lawyers who serve in state legislatures continues to drop. Moreover, the growing use of private justice–for instance, mediation and arbitration –allows wealthy individuals and corporations to avoid the courts….
See also:
Sustaining Justice: 10 Experts Tell How Courts Can Do More with Less
Source: James Podgers, ABA Journal, June 1, 2011
State activities map: Budget shortfalls by state
Source: National Center for State Courts, 2012