During these tough economic times, courts have trimmed their budgets with a variety of measures, such as furloughing staff, closing courtrooms, and reducing operating hours. Each of these measures jeopardizes public access, making it all the more important for courts to reach out to the communities they serve. While it is critical that legislatures, executives, and the public understand the role of the Third Branch of government, courts must continually strive to improve awareness of how the justice system makes a difference in people's everyday lives.
This year's edition of the National Center for State Courts' Future Trends in State Courts series focuses on "Courts and the Community"—not only how courts are presenting themselves to lawmakers and the public, but also what courts are doing to confront social problems in their jurisdictions. It's inspiring to read articles about how courts have responded to social issues, such as:
- Blighted housing and real estate in Cleveland due to questionable "flipping" practices involving depressed properties;
- The plight of returning combat veterans, both men and women, in Orange County, California;
- Coordination between state agencies and tribal courts on issues involving children; and
- Intensive monitoring for child support cases in Virginia.
Future Trends 2012 confronts other topics, as well—a number of which also feature "Courts and the Community" as an essential component. For example, "Better Courts" features articles about the work of the American Bar Association's Task Force on Preservation of the Justice System and how to effectively present court budgets to legislatures by stressing concrete results over abstract concepts. "Court Education" discusses generational differences among those who work in the courts—and what needs to be done to improve their commitment to court administration as a career. "Leadership in the Courts" includes the perspectives of judges and state court administrators on where the courts need to go next. A special section examines what courts are doing to ensure the privacy of personal data.
President, National Center for State Courts