Volume 5, Issue 5 April 2014
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Language access brief released
Fifth brief from Center on Court Access to Justice for All

The Center on Court Access to Justice for All has released the fifth in a series of Access Briefs to assist courts with issues related to self-represented litigants. Access Brief 5: Language Access and Self-Represented Litigants builds on the nine action steps that came out of the 2012 National Summit on Language Access in the Courts and considers each step and its application specifically for the LEP subpopulation of self-represented litigants. The brief was reviewed by several experts in the field of court interpreting and benefited from their comments and insights. The center offers resources and technical assistance to help judges and courts advance access to justice, especially for poor and low-income individuals. It works closely with the Conference of Chief Justices, the Conference of State Court Administrators and other national court organizations to implement access-to-justice solutions. The Center is supported by the Public Welfare Foundation (PWF).

Court leaders tell
NCSC story

2013 Annual Report reflects and looks ahead

NCSC recently released its 2013 Annual Report, in which court leaders from around the country tell their stories about how working with NCSC improved their court’s operations and helped find solutions to ongoing court challenges. The report, titled Our story . . . talks about NCSC’s recent accomplishments and provides a blueprint for its future. “It’s impossible to discuss the work of NCSC without recognizing the court leaders, the individuals, the companies, the law firms, the staff members, and all who support NCSC and our state courts,” says NCSC President Mary McQueen and Chief Justice Michael Heavican, chair of NCSC Board of Directors. “People make the difference between mere information and useful knowledge, and this Annual Report uses their own words to describe the work NCSC does to improve the administration of justice and enhance public trust and confidence in the courts.”

NCSC pioneers performance measures
for problem-solving courts

Updated Web page helps courts determine how to move forward

NCSC recently updated and revised its problem-solving courts information on the website to include performance measures, national guidelines, questions and answers, and more. Current projects of NCSC’s problem-solving team—made up of Court Consulting and Research staff—are organized by court type and demonstrate the breadth of experience in conducting process, outcome, impact and cost-benefit analyses, and needs assessments. NCSC develops data-collection tools to track program data and provides technical assistance to address state- or locality-specific issues and more. NCSC produces national guidelines for adult drug court and performance measures for mental health courts. NCSC currently is working with Pennsylvania to develop the first-ever veteran’s court performance measures. With funding from the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) Statewide Drug Court Technical Assistance Grant, NCSC developed performance measures for adult, family, and juvenile courts. For current and past projects, the full range of services provided, and the four questions you should ask to determine what type of evaluation is right for your problem-solving court, go here.

Virginia 5th grader wins NCSC
civics education essay contest

75 entries from eight states

Paul Barrientos, a fifth-grade student from Williamsburg, Virginia, is the winner of the National Center for State Courts’ (NCSC) 2014 Civics Education Essay Contest, held to recognize Law Day, May 1. Third-, fourth-, and fifth-grade students from across the country were asked to write about “What is civics education and why is it important?” NCSC received 75 entries representing eight states. One first-place winner was selected, five second-place winners, and 12 third-place winners. In his essay, Barrientos emphasized that civics education “helps us know our rights . . . it tells us about legislative, executive and judicial [branches] and how they make sure no one has too much power.” The finalists represented three states: Virginia, Florida, and Texas, with Florida having more finalists than any other state. The winning essays and a video of a few of the winners are available online. NCSC would like to know what your court is doing to recognize Law Day—e-mail droesch@ncsc.org.

Pretrial services title added to NCSC library
New Trends article asks "what is a case?"

In March 2014, the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts published a report for the Supreme Court of Illinois: Circuit Court of Cook County Pretrial Operational Review. This report, written in consultation with the National Center for State Courts, is “a comprehensive analysis of current processes and procedures utilized by pretrial staff and stakeholders in Chicago and Cook County suburban locations,” Chief Justice Rita B. Garman. The chief justice further explains that the purpose of the report is to “facilitate movement toward meaningful change in pretrial structure and operations, including systemic improvements in information sharing, communication and training.” The Pretrial Operational Review proposed 40 recommendations in such areas as pretrial management, pretrial and bond court processes, pretrial interviews and assessments, bond court governance, caseflow processing and data exchange, and program performance and outcome measurement. For more titles on pretrial services, please contact Joan Cochet at jcochet@ncsc.org or visit the NCSC Library’s online catalog.

Just what is a case?  This is the topic of NCSC’s April online Trends article by John Matthias, who examines the various administrative and auxiliary case types that can spring from a “single” case.