@TheCenter from NCSC


Resources available to help courts with fines, fees, and bail practices

The National Task Force on Fines, Fees and Bail Practices, formed in early 2016 by the Conference of Chief Justices and the Conference of State Court Administrators, recently released a series of resources to help state courts ensure that no citizen is denied access to the justice system based on race, culture, or lack of economic resources. The resources include a new bench card to assist judges in real time with the lawful collection of legal financial obligations; model legislation that, where enacted, would ensure that a state’s top judicial officers are apprised regularly of every court with the authority to levy fines, assess fees, or impose incarceration; and an interactive website highlighting studies, reports, and reforms across the states. These and additional resources are now available online at ncsc.org/finesfees. “No one in America should be sent to jail—or threatened with jail—solely because they are poor. This this task force is committed to taking steps to ensure justice for all,” said Maureen O’Connor, chief justice of the Supreme Court of Ohio, who co-chairs this task force with Laurie K. Dudgeon, the director of the Administrative Office of the Kentucky Courts. The release of the resources follows a year’s work by the national task force, which is made up of state chief justices, state court administrators, and various other stakeholders.


Recognizing innovation in civics education

Nominations are now being accepted for the Sandra Day O’Connor Award for the Advancement of Civics Education. NCSC established this award in 2010 to honor an organization, court, or individual who has significantly advanced civics education of the courts. Nominations may be submitted by members of the Conference of Chief Justices, the Conference of State Court Administrators, or members of the NCSC Board of Directors. You may solicit nominations from others in the court community, but each nomination must be submitted with the approval of a member of CCJ, COSCA, or the NCSC Board. To make a nomination, please include a letter detailing the person’s or organization’s civics education accomplishments, a description of the civics program, and at least two letters of reference. All nominations are due to the NCSC by March 17, 2017. The following criteria can be helpful when considering a candidate for nomination:

  • Leadership and commitment—the number of years devoted to civics education, whether the efforts have been personal (e.g., going into the field, the classrooms, etc.) or strong advocacy work (e.g., making speeches and providing endorsements)
  • Programmatic details—what has been the impact and scope of the nominee’s efforts, what is the nature/variety/duration of the programmatic efforts, and have any of the programmatic activities prompted innovation?


Four court jurisdictions awarded grants for civil justice improvements

The Civil Justice Improvements Committee recently published a blueprint for state courts that includes 13 recommendation that address the shortcomings of the civil justice system, most notably cost and delay. To implement the recommendations, four court jurisdictions have been selected as pilot sites: the Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Florida; the 22nd Judicial Court in McHenry County, Illinois; the Maine Judicial Branch; and the Magistrate Court of Fulton County, Georgia. Each pilot site will receive funding provided by the State Justice Institute. The set of 13 recommendations, which were adopted by the Conference of Chief Justices and the Conference of State Court Administrators in July 2016, are designed to secure the fair, speedy, and inexpensive resolution of civil cases in state courts. The committee was established two years ago to develop guidelines and best practices for civil litigation based on evidence from state pilot projects and from other applicable research and to make recommendations as necessary in the area of caseflow management to improve the civil justice system.


Examining how courts confront the U.S. opioid epidemic

The misuse of opioids, such as heroin, morphine, and other prescription pain medicines, is a serious national problem, and abuse has been steadily increasing in the United States. The latest Trends in State Courts article, “Opioid Epidemic and the Courts,” explains the impact of the opioid epidemic on every aspect of our public safety and judicial system and how courts must partner with other organizations, like the Addiction Policy Forum, to address the issue. The Addiction Policy Forum is hosting the the 2017 CARA Implementation Conference on February 28 in Washington, D.C., to promote the use of research and evaluation in the development and implementation of comprehensive strategies designed to address opioid abuse in the United States. Register to attend this conference here.


What do you want to see . . . at CTC?

Registration is open now for the 2017 Court Technology Conference, which will be held September 12-14 in Salt Lake City.  What do you want to see at this year’s conference? Help us build the best possible programming for CTC 2017 by completing a short online survey. The survey below will take only a minute (we promise!) to complete, but your response will help us make sure we fill three days with the best possible learning. Thanks for your assistance, and please make plans to join us in Salt Lake City this fall.


Court Statistics Project releases new edition of Examining the Work of State Courts

The new edition of Examining the Work of State Courts reports that total state court caseloads continued their steady decline, dropping an additional 5 percent between 2014 and 2015. Criminal, juvenile, and domestic relations cases leveled off from 2014 to 2015, while civil and traffic/violations cases continued to drop. The reasons for the decline, which began in 2008, include reductions in budgets and services throughout the criminal and juvenile justice system, changes in driving habits and automobile technologies, a decline in the divorce rate, and alternative modes of dispute resolution and simply discouragement with a slow, complicated, and expensive civil justice system. Appellate caseloads have followed the same downward trend, declining an additional 3 percent from 2014 to 2015. Examining documents these caseload trends, while the Court Statistics Project’s online DataViewer tool allows readers to explore these data by sorting, filtering, and exporting the data.


NCSC reading room


How do court leaders address change or even disruptive change? HBR's Ten Must Reads: The Essentials presents a series of articles published in the Harvard Business Review over the last 30 years (except for one). They examine how an individual can become a “top manager” and achieve great success in an organization. The topics explored provide leaders ideas to develop their potential. The various writers collectively argue that today’s managers need a toolbox filled with strategic thinking, self-awareness, appropriate performance measures, and innovativeness. This is a must read for anyone interested in leading effective change throughout their organization. This book is available in NCSC’s Library.

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