Traffic Resource Center for Judges

   

Greg Hurley, Knowledge and Information Services Analyst, National Center for State Courts

The Traffic Resource Center for Judges is a clearinghouse of information for judges who hear traffic cases.  Court administrators will also find information to help them better manage traffic cases from initial filing through post-dispositional matters.

Over the past few decades, traffic cases, and more specifically impaired-driving cases, have become increasingly complex.  Judges hearing traffic cases are confronted with new methods for detecting impaired drivers, new interpretations of the U.S. and state constitutions, and frequent changes to statutes that prohibit certain driving behaviors.  Court administrators are also facing new challenges.  For example, the federal government has placed increasing pressure on states to comply with timely notifications of convictions of drivers with commercial licenses for specified driving offenses.  The failure of trial court administrators to promptly forward these convictions puts federal highway grant funds at risk. 

Judges and court administrators need a source of quality information containing current trends, studies, reports, and case law in traffic cases to make the best decisions and take advantage of promising innovations.  In recognition of these needs, the Traffic Resource Center for Judges (TRCJ) was created in 2011.  It is a cooperative effort between the Department of Transportation and the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) to establish a resource for judges, court administrators, court clerks, and other court staff on issues related to traffic adjudication.  It is loosely patterned after the National Traffic Law Center, which is an invaluable clearinghouse of information and resources for the prosecutors.  The TRCJ, in addition to being a clearinghouse of information, also provides training and technical assistance resources to improve court decision making in traffic cases. The TRCJ emphasizes resources for cases involving impaired driving, drugged driving, and distracted driving. 

The purpose of the TRCJ website is to provide a useful, ready reference for judges new to the bench or recently assigned to traffic cases, who may need quick access to accurate and timely information.  Experienced judges and court staff will also find the website a useful resource for reference materials on specialized traffic issues, evidence-based practices, current technology, and constitutional issues.

NCSC provided an ideal organizational setting for the TRCJ as its mission dovetails well with the TRCJ’s goals.  The TRCJ needed to be neutral, in that the information it provides when taken as a whole is balanced, favoring neither the prosecution nor the defense.  However, it does contain resources that were written or developed from one perspective.  On some issues, the most comprehensive resource available may have been researched and written by a prosecutor or a defense attorney.  Any bias in these resources can easily be identified by reading the description on the website.  Additionally, the website contains studies and reports that were conducted and reported by vendors.  While these resources are inherently biased, they were included on the website as they were deemed to be the best information available on a particular technology.

Judges, court staff, and others can access the TRCJ in several different ways, and all services are free for the requestor.  They can go to http://home.trafficresourcecenter.org/ or search “Traffic Resource Center for Judges” on any of the major search engines online.  Once on the website, they will see that information is broken down into two major categories:  impaired driving and all other traffic-related issues.  They can also request additional assistance by either using the online form on the website or calling one of the staff members listed below.  The TRCJ receives a wide variety of requests from the court community.  Some requests are simple, such as locating a particular statute, while others are more complex and involve extensive research.  Judges or court staff that are planning to speak or write on traffic-related issues may find the TRCJ particularly useful.  The majority of the staff of the TRCJ are lawyers, and all staff have access to LexisNexis, which makes the TRCJ a powerful tool for the court community.

Another feature of the TRCJ is our monthly newsletter, Judging Traffic.  The newsletter is e-mailed on the third Wednesday of each month.  Each edition contains five to six brief articles, which direct readers to cases, statutory changes, studies, reports, or news items of interest to judges who hear traffic cases.  With each story, a link to the source is provided so that readers may learn more about the issue presented.  Anyone interested in subscribing to Judging Traffic may do so here or may send an e-mail to a staff member below.  

This TRCJ encourages users to help make it a more vibrant tool for the judicial community.  Users are encouraged to e-mail information they have located; training materials they developed, including PowerPoint slides delivered at meetings; or anything else they feel is relevant.  Provided these materials are not subject to copyright restrictions, they will be included on TRCJ website.  In the future, the TRCJ will continue to develop its online presence and newsletter.  We also plan to include a series of video clips of experienced judges speaking about specific traffic-related issues and possible resolutions to those issues.

A key service of the TRCJ is to respond in a timely manner to requests for information and assistance from judges, the court community, the media, and the public.  If you have a request for technical assistance or a comment or suggestion, or wish to subscribe to Judging Traffic, please contact Greg Hurley or Deborah Smith, or call 1-800-616-6164.

Reports are part of the National Center for State Courts' "Report on Trends in State Courts" and "Future Trends in State Courts" series.
Opinions herein are those of the authors, not necessarily of the National Center for State Courts.