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NCSC’s Fall Events put spotlight on mental illness & justice system and need for civil justice reform

Florida Judge Steve Leifman is a “shining example of the best” of those who work in the justice system, Chief Justice of the United States John G. Roberts said as he presented Judge Leifman the William H. Rehnquist Award Nov. 19 during a ceremony at the U.S. Supreme Court. Some 250 judicial and legal leaders from around the country attended the award dinner, which is part of NCSC’s Fall Events held each November in Washington, D.C.

A press briefing about the overrepresentation of people with mental illnesses who are in the justice system kicked off the events. Sen. Al Franken, who is cosponsoring the Comprehensive Justice and Mental Health Act spoke, along with Judge Leifman, who was being honored for transforming the way the courts in Miami-Dade County handle people with mental illnesses. (Watch the press conference here.) Other Fall Events included a Conversation with the Chiefs; the Justice Roundtable, which focused on the civil justice initiative; and NCSC’s Recognition Luncheon, in which members were inducted into the Warren E. Burger Society.


Become a pilot state for the Conservatorship Accountability Project

NCSC is now accepting applications from state courts to be among three states/territories to pilot the Conservatorship Accountability Project (CAP). The purposes of the project are to modernize conservatorship accounting and tracking processes and build safeguards to protect vulnerable adults from financial exploitation. This project is supported by a generous grant from the State Justice Institute and includes collaboration with the Minnesota Judicial Branch and its Conservator Account Auditing Program (CAAP).  NCSC will provide technical assistance to three states to pilot the conservatorship software.  Technical assistance requests are expected to fall into the following areas: adapting software to state laws and forms; programming; integrating the software with case management systems; mapping business processes; developing implementation plans; resolving issues in piloted jurisdictions; creating standardized reports; establishing auditing procedures; developing manuals and training materials; training staff on the CAP program; and developing follow-up protocols. Applications are due Friday, December 11.


New NCSC report shows dramatic changes of civil caseloads over past 20 years

NCSC has released a report on The Landscape of Civil Litigation of State Courts, which examines case characteristics and outcomes for civil cases disposed during a one-year interval from courts in 10 urban counties in the United States.  The Landscape data set includes approximately 5 percent of civil cases disposed in state courts nationally.  Among the report’s key findings:

  • More than half of the cases were low-value debt-collection, landlord/tenant, and small-claims cases.
  • Three-quarters of all monetary judgments entered were for $5,200 or less.  
  • Most cases were resolved through an administrative process, rather than an adversarial proceeding.
  • At least one party was self-represented in more than three-quarters of the cases.

Landscape is the first multi-jurisdiction study of civil caseloads since the 1992 Civil Justice Survey of State Courts and is more comprehensive than the 1992 study, insofar that it examines the entire civil caseload, rather than just cases filed in general-jurisdiction courts.


7th IOJT conference concludes in Brazil

The 7th International Conference on the Training of the Judiciary (IOJT) wrapped up recently near Recife, Brazil.  Several NCSC staff members participated in the four-day meeting that included judges, judicial educators, and court staff from judiciaries across six continents.  Conference sessions were presented in English, Spanish, French, and Portuguese and tackled topics such as funding for judicial branch education and the development of guiding principles.  NCSC President Mary McQueen, who serves as secretary general of the IOJT, spoke on the value of networking and hosted the closing plenary session that drew together conference themes.  During the conference, participants attended courses on the intersections between judicial education and leadership, technology, professional skills development, and many other topics.  Prior IOJT conferences were held in Washington (2013), Bordeaux (2011), Sydney (2009), Barcelona (2007), Ottawa (2004), and Jerusalem (2002).


Workshop for state court VAW points of contact draws representatives from 49 states and territories

NCSC held a workshop on October 27-28 in Williamsburg for State Court Violence Against Women (VAW) Points of Contact.  The workshop was well attended and included staff from the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW), technical assistance providers, and project partners.  The workshop focused on the 5 percent set-aside to courts (state, tribal, local), which is part of the STOP Violence Against Women formula grants.  In addition to showcasing court projects addressing domestic violence and sexual assault, emphasis was placed on sharing experiences and leveraging additional funds to support court efforts in this area.  Under this project, NCSC is offering individualized technical assistance, administering travel assistance grants to attend OVW-approved trainings, conducting webinars, and drafting a handbook for state court VAW points of contact.  For more information, contact the project director,  Dr. Brenda K. Uekert (buekert@ncsc.org). 


NCSC reading room

More and more children are being raised by relatives other than their biological parents. This is referred to as “kinship care.” The Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 established “Family Connection Grants” to fund “kinship navigator programs” to help children and relative caregivers connect with essential programs and services. The Child Welfare League of America has published Kinship Navigators: Profiles of Family Connections Projects from 2012 to 2015. The essays in this volume describe programs funded by these grants in Arizona, California, Florida, Michigan, New York, and Oklahoma. This book is available from the NCSC Library.
The Traffic Resource Center releases a monthly issue brief on a topic of interest to courts. This month’s Trends in State Courts article reviews these issue briefs, which focus on pretrial diversion for DUIs, sobriety checkpoints, and other issues.


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