Mission & History

The mission of the National Center for State Courts is to IMPROVE THE ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE through LEADERSHIP and SERVICE to state courts, and courts around the world.

Judicial Reform

The National Center continues to be the preeminent judicial reform organization in the United States.

Leadership

The National Center will continue to be the national and global leader in helping courts improve the administration of justice. The National Center will:

  • Serve as a NATIONAL THINK TANK to anticipate new developments, identify best practices, promote experimentation, establish performance standards and measures, evaluate program performance, and foster adaptation to change,
  • Provide a NATIONAL FORUM for discussion of issues affecting the administration of justice,
  • Create a NATIONAL LEADERSHIP AGENDA for improving the administration of justice,
  • Serve as a NATIONAL VOICE for the needs and interests of the state courts,
  • Promote COLLABORATION AMONG NATIONAL COURT ASSOCIATIONS and related national organizations,
  • Strengthen the RULE OF LAW and administration of justice THROUGHOUT THE WORLD, and
  • serve as a MODEL ORGANIZATION.

Service

The National Center will continue to be the premier provider of quality services meeting the current and future needs of the U.S. state court community, and courts around the world. The National Center will:

  • Create new knowledge about judicial administration,
  • Disseminate knowledge and information about judicial administration, and
  • Apply its knowledge of judicial administration to help courts solve problems and meet future needs, and support the projects and policies of state courts and state court associations.

HISTORY

At the First National Conference of the Judiciary, held in Williamsburg, Virginia, in 1971, Chief Justice Warren Burger called for the creation of a central resource for the state courts—a "national center for state courts." The National Center for State Courts began operations that same year at the headquarters of the Federal Judicial Center in Washington, D.C., before moving to its permanent headquarters in Williamsburg in 1978.

The National Center for State Court's current mission, improving judicial administration through leadership and service to the state courts, springs logically from its original purpose as an information clearinghouse so that innovations in one court can benefit all courts. Initially, the National Center concentrated on helping courts to reduce backlogs and delay. This work included the publication of the groundbreaking Justice Delayed: The Pace of Litigation in Urban Trial Courts in 1978. The National Center also gave judges and court administrators a vital national perspective on court operations through its Court Statistics Project (started in 1978); the work of its Knowledge Information Service, which handled more than 1,000 requests for court-related information during its first year of operation (1979); and the holdings of its Library, the largest collection of court administration-related materials in the world.

Since its founding in 1971, the National Center for State Courts has played a key role in the development of court administration worldwide. Important National Center initiatives include

  • Create new knowledge about judicial administration,
  • Disseminate knowledge and information about judicial administration, and
  • Apply its knowledge of judicial administration to help courts solve problems and meet future needs, and support the projects and policies of state courts and state court associations.
  • Developing the skills of more than 1,000 court leaders through the Court Executive Development Program of the Institute for Court Management
  • Improving how courts treat jurors through the work of its Center for Jury Studies and the promotion of innovations in jury system management
  • Promoting the use of technology to improve court operations through National Court Technology Conferences (starting in Chicago in 1984), original research, and direct technical assistance
  • Developing in partnership with courts standards for evaluating how well courts serve the public, such as the Trial Court Performance Standards (1987)
  • Working with court associations, such as the Conference of Chief Justices and National Association for Court Management, to improve public trust and confidence in the courts by conducting and building upon the first National Conference on Public Trust and Confidence in the Judiciary (1999)
  • Working with courts in other countries to improve the rule of law worldwide