@TheCenter from NCSC


Will the next U.S. Supreme Court justice bring state court experience?

The successor to Justice Antonin Scalia will be the 113th justice to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. And if recent history repeats itself, the nominee will not have state court experience, according to NCSC research. About 44 percent of justices—49 of the 112 who have served—arrived at the high court with either state trial or state appellate court experience. But since the retirement of Justice David H. Souter in 2008, the Supreme Court has been bereft of a single member who brings jurisprudential experience from America’s state courts.  This turn away from the state courts is a relatively recent phenomenon.  Between 1789 and 2008, the high court always included at least one member with state court judicial experience. Ten justices have served at both the state trial and appellate levels before their elevation to the U.S. Supreme Court. However, in the last 60 years, three justices—Souter and Justices William Brennan, Jr., and Sandra Day O’Connor—have been confirmed with state court experience. In the 50 years prior, nine of the 32 justices confirmed to the high court brought state court experience. State courts account for more than 95 percent of all cases filed in America. 


New Justice for All project strives to improve access to justice

Housed at NCSC and launched with funding from the Public Welfare Foundation, the new Justice for All project seeks to improve access to civil justice by helping states adopt and implement CCJ/COSCA Resolution 5, Reaffirming the Commitment to Meaningful Access to Justice for All. This project aims to enhance states’ commitment to reimagining how to work across organizational boundaries and optimizing all available resources to advance access to justice for all. A Request For Proposal (RFP) for states will be issued in late May, and grants are expected to be awarded in the fall. In advance of the RFP, CCJ members are encouraged to start mobilizing a team to be prepared to complete the RFP when it is released in May. The project’s Advisory Committee is co-chaired by Massachusetts Chief Justice Ralph Gants and Associate Justice Laurie Zelon of the California Court of Appeal. For more information please contact NCSC’s Shelley Spacek Miller, sspacek@ncsc.org or 757-259-1538.


NCSC issues report on Body-Worn Cameras and the Courts

A new NCSC report, Body-Worn Cameras and the Courts, discusses the functionality of body-worn cameras and the potential litigation issues expected to arise as the technology is increasingly used by the law enforcement community.  PDF copies of the report are available for downloading, and a limited number of printed copies are available by emailing ghurley@ncsc.org. This project was funded by the State Justice Institute. NCSC is hosting a webinar that walks through the report on Thursday, March 3, 2016, at 2 p.m. EST.  Pre-registration is not required; however, participants should login at least five minutes early. The webinar is being recorded, and will be available the following day. 


Bring your bright ideas to e-Courts 2016

e-Courts 2016 is currently accepting proposals for breakout sessions for the event, which is being held December 12-14 in Las Vegas.  The e-Courts Education Advisory Committee is looking for new ideas, new technology, new challenges, and new successes. If you have an innovative idea, story, or concept please submit your proposal here. Proposals will be rated on the knowledge and experience of the presenters; alignment of topic to audience; degree to which a realistic and achievable approach has been proposed; opportunities for audience engagement; and content that is educational, not commercial, in nature. Deadline is March 1.


CCJ/COSCA Task Force on Fines, Fees and Bail Practices

CCJ and COSCA have formed a National Task Force on Fines, Fees and Bail Practices to address the ongoing impact that court fines and fees and bail practices have on communities—especially the economically disadvantaged. It is co-chaired by Ohio Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor and Kentucky State Court Administrator Laurie K. Dudgeon. Task Force members include Missouri Chief Justice Patricia Breckenridge, Texas Chief Justice Nathan Hecht, New Jersey Chief Justice Stuart Rabner, South Carolina State Court Administrator Rosalyn Frierson, California State Court Administrator Martin Hoshino, and New Mexico State Court Administrator Artie Pepin. The Task Force’s first meeting is scheduled for March 14–15 in Washington, D.C. The Task Force is working with the support and commitment of the State Justice Institute (SJI), and is coordinating with key stakeholders, including the Department of Justice. The Task Force has formed three working groups: Access to Justice and Fairness; Transparency, Governance and Structural Reform; and Accountability, Judicial Performance and Qualifications, and Oversight.


Stay tuned for our new podcast—Court Talk

In March NCSC is launching a podcast: Court Talk, which will  discuss societal issues and how they relate to, and impact, the courts. Among the upcoming podcasts court leaders will discuss: the impact that television shows, such as “How to Make a Murderer,” have on the public’s perception of and trust in the courts; how the justice system is more effectively dealing with people with mental illnesses; and how the increase in police officers wearing body cameras affects cost, evidence gathering, and delay in the courts. Stay tuned for more information on Twitter, Facebook, and our website.


If you can hack it, you could win!

NCSC is hosting CourtHack, an event where court tech professionals gather to find a practical, meritocratic, and efficient way of vetting new ideas into implementation. Our first hackathon is broken down into the following scenarios: Accountability; Predictive Analytics to Target Court Oversight; Public Access to Justice: Apps, Tools, and Processes to improve access to justice and allow the public to resolve disputes efficiently; Legal Speed: Remote dispatch of emergency protection orders; and Wild Card: Gaps in the Court System. Think you have what it takes to come up with a viable, helpful solution for these common court problems? Join us March 4-5, 2016 in Salt Lake City, Utah.  You could win big prizes, including a trip to Las Vegas to demo your solution at e-Courts 2016.


NCSC reading room


The scope of international law is a hotly debated topic. Access to International Justice—a collection of essays edited by Patrick Keyzer of La Trobe University (Australia), Vesselin Popovski of the United Nations University (Japan), and Charles Stampford of the Institute for Ethics, Governance and the Law (Australia)—examines issues related to international law and access to justice, including human rights, prosecution of international crimes, and climate justice. This book is part of Routledge’s Challenges to Globalisation series and is available from NCSC’s Library.
There has been growing interest in repealing or modifying mandatory judicial retirement ages. This month’s Trends in State Courts article discusses efforts to accomplish this and the pros and cons of mandatory retirement.

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