@TheCenter from NCSC

VOLUME 8, ISSUE 8 | AUGUST 2017   

New leaders at CCJ/COSCA

Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor (pictured right) is the new president of the Conference of Chief Justices (CCJ), and Washington’s State Court Administrator, Callie T. Dietz, is leading the Conference of State Court Administrators (COSCA). CCJ promotes the interests and effectiveness of state judicial systems by developing policies and educational programs designed to improve court operations. COSCA is committed to strengthening the judicial branch by improving the quality of state courts and increasing the public’s trust and confidence in the justice system. Both women were appointed to their one-year positions earlier this year at the organizations’ annual conference in Philadelphia.


New toolkit aims to reduce reliance on non-family placements for children in foster care

Children do better when they live in families, and this is confirmed by research and embedded in our laws. If a child is removed from the home, our laws require children to be placed in the least restrictive, most family-like setting to best meet their needs. Yet statistics reveal practice is not consistent with this policy. Federal foster care data tell us that 40 percent of children entering the child welfare system are placed in a group-care setting without a demonstrated clinical or behavioral need for placement outside of a family. The National Center for State Courts has launched a new judicial toolkit to help reduce reliance on non-family placements for children in foster care. The toolkit includes research on why kids do better in families; bench cards and checklists for judges, attorneys, and advocates; an interactive state-by-state map of data on kids placed in non-family settings; training tools; and judicial strategies for reform.


New arrival: Called to Action: Access to Justice for Limited English Proficient Litigants

It's been five years since state court leaders from across the country convened at the 2012 National Summit on Language Access in the Courts and since the subsequent release of the publication A National Call to Action.  What resulted from the Summit and the Call to Action was a new level of collaboration and focus that assisted the language-access community to effectively and efficiently create solutions to language barriers in the state courts. A new NCSC online resource is now available that provides a comprehensive report on the improvements state courts and national organizations have made to enhance language access.


Best practices for court privacy formulation

Fifteen years after COSCA adopted model guidelines for public access to court records, the State Justice Institute funded a project to update those privacy policies, considering first a national survey of courts’ public-access rules, then convening two focus groups, and, most recently, assessing the “state of the art” in automated data-identification technologies that leverage machine learning to continuously improve accuracy. The first report, published last month, provides court leaders with a brief history of public access to court documents, a Revised Model Policy for Electronic Public Access to Court Case Records, and NCSC’s initial thoughts about court processes that could be vastly improved by automated data identification and extraction—not just redaction of confidential information but case triage, support for pro se e-filers, and a host of other court priorities. NCSC is currently conducting a Proof of Concept and will present its findings at next month’s Court Technology Conference.


Research analyst wins prestigious award

Shauna Strickland, senior court research analyst at the National Center for State Courts, was recently awarded the Morgan Thomas Award by the National Conference of Appellate Court Clerks (NCACC). Shauna, a key member of the team that produces the Court Statistics Project, has worked with NCACC to design a national data model that many states have used to understand how their appellate systems work and how they are different than other states. The award was last given in 2014, when Brenda Williams of the National Center won it. The award honors Morgan Thomas, who worked for many years at the Georgia Court of Appeals.


NCSC accepting nominations for Burger Award

The National Center for State Courts is accepting nominations for the Warren E. Burger Award, the highest award recognizing a court administrator who has significantly contributed to improving the administration of the state courts. Service may be at the local, state, or national level. This prestigious award honors an individual who demonstrates professional expertise, leadership, integrity, creativity, innovativeness, and sound judgment. Nominations are due no later than Friday, October 13, 2017. The following information must accompany each nomination: letter of nomination setting forth up to three major accomplishments of the nominee; résumé for the nominee; and two letters of reference from individuals who have direct knowledge of the nominee’s accomplishments.


10 questions with Brenda Uekert

At NCSC, we’re proud of the research we do, the advice we give, and the education we provide to our colleagues in the courts. And we’re proud of the people who do that work.

Brenda considers herself a passionate person who “sometimes acts first and asks for forgiveness later.” And some of her passions can be found in the window sills of her office: A statue of Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre represents her love— “a fanaticism really”—for the Packers. A beautiful candlestick she turned from a stick of mahogany represents her desire to pursue her interests and not wait for a day that may never come. And a photo of her daughter Alexandra, who she adopted from Ukraine 13 years ago, well, that’s obvious.


NCSC reading room


What makes big data so powerful and how can it best be used? In Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are, Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, a Harvard-trained economist and former Google data scientist, asserts that aggregated Google searches can reveal much about the human psyche. He uses the power of Google searches to draw many surprising conclusions. Insights from economics to ethics can be made from the world of big data. Does where you go to school affect how successful you are in life? Do parents secretly favor boys over girls? He provides the evidence behind the power of big data—and warns readers of its limitations. By asking the right questions, a data scientist (or anyone) can effectively advance the social and behavioral sciences. This book is available from NCSC’s Library.

The human body reacts to sexual assault in often contradictory ways. This month’s Trends in State Courts article discusses how understanding the effect of trauma on the brain and body can help judges to understand the reactions of victims.

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