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Using risk & needs assessment information at sentencing

A new report by NCSC’s Center for Sentencing Initiatives, funded in part by The Pew Charitable Trusts, explores how jurisdictions from across the country are using defendant risk and needs assessment (RNA) information at sentencing. The authors—NCSC researchers Jennifer Elek, Pamela Casey, and former NCSC president Roger Warren—conducted interviews with judges, corrections officials, prosecutors, defense counsel, and other criminal justice stakeholders from ten jurisdictions that have incorporated the use of risk and needs assessment into local sentencing reform efforts and conducted site visits to three of these jurisdictions. The report captures themes in stakeholder perceptions of RNA information and its use at sentencing, experiences in adopting these reforms, and lessons learned from the implementation process. In addition, the report offers examples of how these jurisdictions have implemented the nine guiding principles for using RNAs to inform sentencing and probation revocation decisions (for more about the nine guiding principles, see this 2011 report).


Indiana judge named 2015 Munsterman Award winner

Judge Frances C. Gull, administrative judge of the Criminal Division, Allen Superior Court in Indiana, will receive the National Center for State Courts’ 2015 G. Thomas Munsterman Award for Jury Innovation. The Munsterman Award recognizes states, local courts, organizations, or individuals that have made significant improvements or innovations in jury procedures, operations, and practices. Judge Gull has dedicated the past 10 years to electronically upgrading the Allen County Superior Court jury management system. She helped establish mJuror, which allows constituents to perform several juror-related tasks electronically. Judge Gull will receive the Munsterman Award during a ceremony at the Allen County Courthouse November 10, 2015.


Latest national caseload statistics now available

Trial courts in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico reported a combined total of 94.1 million incoming cases for 2013, the latest year for which complete data are available, according to Examining the Work of State Courts: An Overview of 2013 State Court Caseloads, a report by NCSC’s Court Statistics Project. In the recently released report, state appellate courts reported 262,230 incoming cases in 2013, which include appeals of cases from lower tribunals and first-instance cases. CSP works with the Conference of State Court Administrators’ Court Statistics Committee and state administrative offices of the courts to provide comprehensive and comparable national data on state trial and appellate caseloads. CSP also provides in-depth, state-level statistics via its interactive DataViewer.


New curriculum helps judges prevent Internet-related juror misconduct

NCSC’s Center for Jury Studies has developed a new curriculum designed to teach trial judges about juror use of new media, including how to effectively discourage jurors from using these technologies inappropriately during trial and how to respond to allegations of Internet-related juror misconduct. The intended audience is trial judges who sit in courts with jury trial jurisdiction. Appellate court judges may also benefit from much of the material presented. The curriculum consists of three 30-minute modules titled 1) “Juror and Jury Use of New Media: What Do We Know?”; 2) “An Ounce of Prevention”; and 3) “When Prevention Fails.”


Gavel to Gavel hosting election night coverage

Two states will be electing new supreme court justices in the upcoming elections November 3. Two candidates are running in Kentucky and seven in Pennsylvania. Mississippi will also be deciding between two different versions of a constitutional amendment regarding the provision of an "adequate and efficient system of free public schools," one of which involves the state's chancery courts. NCSC’s Gavel to Gavel editor, Bill Raftery, is hosting live coverage of election night results www.ncsc.org/elections.


NCSC reading room


The law can have a strong influence on those who work in the creative arts. In Comic Art, Creativity and the Law, Marc H. Greenberg, professor of law at Golden Gate University in San Francisco, examines how contract law, copyright law, tax law, and other legal factors affect the work and lives of those who create comics. He also discusses the “neuroscience of creativity” and the development of comic art. This book is available from the NCSC Library.

Retirement benefits are often cited as an important element for attracting and keeping well-qualified judges. This month’s online Trends in State Courts article examines judicial retirement plans nationwide.

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