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Judges, Tavis Smiley team up for new PBS series Courting Justice

Photo by Earl Gibson III

This Wednesday, June 22, the first of a series of judicial listening tours airs on many PBS stations as part of the Tavis Smiley Show during that show’s regular time slot. The series, Courting Justice, is a project of the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) and PBS broadcaster Tavis Smiley to increase public dialogue about perceived racial disparity in the courts and other issues that impact public trust and confidence in the judiciary. This week’s debut features judicial leaders from across the country discussing issues ranging from how racial attitudes towards the courts vary, the public uproar stemming from a recent California sentencing decision, and how the U.S. Supreme Court vacancy created by the death of Antonin Scalia affects the public’s attitude toward the courts. The first of the town hall meetings was recorded at Loyola School of Law in Los Angeles.  Audience members were drawn from Los Angeles area social justice, advocacy, faith and small business communities, in addition to local and national court and bar leaders. Support for Courting Justice is provided by the State Justice Institute, NCSC, Walmart, the California Endowment, and the Public Welfare Foundation. Future dates and locations for the next in the series of town halls will be announced shortly. More information about Courting Justice is available on NCSC’s website at ncsc.org/courtingjustice.


Family law, communications, & more featured in new Trends report

Developments in family law, court communications, and other court improvements are the topics of Trends in State Courts 2016, NCSC’s annual publication dedicated to key trends in society that can affect court operations—and how the courts respond to those trends. This year’s edition features articles on aspects of family law (such as the Maryland courts’ family divisions); communications within courts and with the public (such as Alaska’s legal-notice website); and overall court improvement (such as Michigan’s performance measures to improve customer service). The keynote article discusses state and federal reform initiatives to address the problems posed by “tough-on-crime” sentencing policies. NCSC is looking for any suggestions to improve future editions of Trends in State Courts. Please send your comments and suggestions to Deborah Smith.


Election law eBenchbook helps judges navigate state election controversies

 To help state court judges resolve complex election disputes and navigate the country’s election codes, a State Election Law eBenchbook has been developed by the Election Law Program, a joint project of the National Center for State Courts and William & Mary Law School. This eBenchbook launched June 7 in three states Virginia, Colorado, and Florida. As the November election season approaches and the possibility of these case types significantly increase, judges are going to be called upon to interpret state laws and rules quickly under the twin pressures of tight time frames and close public scrutiny. To compound the issue, each state has its own set of election rules. The eBenchbook begins with each state’s code, then includes annotations from state election law experts for clarity and context. The eBenchbook links to quick definitions of terms in each state’s election laws; to relevant case law, advisory opinions, and regulations; and to a range of reference sources useful for rapid decision making.


Justice for All Advisory Committee releases Request for Proposals

The Justice for All project Advisory Committee is pleased to announce the release of a Request for Proposals (RFP) for strategic-action-planning efforts to advance access to justice for all. The Justice for All project provides funding to support efforts that include all relevant stakeholders in the civil justice community in a partnership to move toward implementation of CCJ/COSCA Resolution 5, Reaffirming the Commitment to Meaningful Access to Justice for All. Visit the Justice for All website for information on the RFP, an upcoming webinar, and other guidance materials to assist in the strategic-action-planning process. Contact Shelley Spacek Miller if you have any questions about the Justice for All project or RFP process.


Do you know anyone who has made innovations in jury operations?


The Center for Jury Studies is seeking nominations for the G. Thomas Munsterman Award, which recognizes states, local courts, individuals, or other organizations that have made significant improvements or innovations in jury procedures, operations, or practices in one of the following categories: state or local statutes, rules, or other formal changes; jury management; and in-court improvements. Nominations for the Munsterman Award are currently being accepted through August 19, 2016, and can be sent by email to Greg Hurley.


Court associations holding annual conferences


Several national court-related associations are holding their annual conferences this summer. These conferences provide not only useful continuing education, but also valuable networking opportunities in which court leaders can learn about solutions to common problems.


NCSC Reading Room


How have recent events and advances in technology affected the collection of foreign intelligence? This is the subject of The Future of Foreign Intelligence: Privacy and Surveillance in a Digital Age. Georgetown Law Professor Laura K. Donohue examines how executive programs, such as STARBURST and PRISM, were used to identify any foreign threats after the September 11 attacks, as well as the role the judiciary has played in interpreting the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Further, Donohue reports that the press revealed how the U.S. Intelligence Community was collecting “citizens’ private information” and the government confirmed the data collection of the PRISM program. She examines recent U.S. Supreme Court privacy cases and argues that more legislative oversight is needed in the digital age encompassing foreign intelligence collection. This book is available in NCSC's Library.

Low-level crimes at events that draw large numbers of people can be a headache for courts and law enforcement. This month’s online Trends in State Courts article discusses how pop-up courts offer a potential solution. NCSC is interested in any suggestions for improving Trends and making it more helpful to the court community. Please provide your feedback by completing our online survey to share your thoughts about Trends 2016. It will only take a few minutes of your time. Thank you.

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