@TheCenter from NCSC

VOLUME 8, ISSUE 10 | OCTOBER 2017   

Opioid crisis hits state courts and court leaders respond

State court leaders recently created a national task force to examine the impact the opioid epidemic is having on the nation’s justice system. The abuse of opioids has had a devastating effect on many families and communities and has overwhelmed courts in numerous states. One of the impacts this epidemic is having on the justice system is that it’s requiring courts to place more children in foster care because of their parent’s opioid abuse. The task force, formed by the Conference of Chief Justices and the Conference of State Court Administrators, plans to identify and document interbranch activities that are addressing the problem and find solutions and services to help people who end up in the justice system because of opioid abuse. The Task Force is co-chaired by Indiana Chief Justice Loretta Rush and Tennessee State Court Administrator Deborah Taylor Tate.


Social media helped Florida, Texas courts deal with Irma & Harvey

Parts of Florida and Texas are still recovering from category-4 hurricanes Irma and Harvey, but much of the states are back to normal, and officials have begun to assess how they prepared for and responded to the storms. Court officials feel good about how they dealt with the storms, and they attribute their success to preparation, experience, and social media. Maybe you expected them to cite preparation and experience, but social media? “Facebook and Twitter were the real workhorses during the storm,” said Craig Waters, communications director for the Florida Supreme Court. Learn how Florida and Texas courts used social media to communicate with court constituents before, during, and after the storms.


Council for Court Excellence receives 2017 G. Thomas Munsterman Award

The Council for Court Excellence (CCE) will receive NCSC’s 2017 G. Thomas Munsterman Award for Jury Innovation. The Munsterman Award recognizes states, local courts, organizations, or individuals that have made significant improvements or innovations in jury procedures, operations, and practices. Among CCE’s achievements: the development of the first Jury Service Appreciation program with the local and federal courts in the District of Columbia; establishment of the D.C. Jury Project; and release of the publications Juries for the Year 2000 and Beyond: Proposals to Improve the Jury System in Washington, D.C. (1995) and Jury Service Revisited: Upgrades for the 21st Century (2015).


Courthouse vision session reinforces a county and circuit court partnership

County government and circuit court leaders in Lane County, Oregon need to build a new courthouse, but they know they must work together for success. Lane County Circuit Court staff recognized how critical a strong partnership with the Lane County Government is toward creating a facility to serve the needs of the community for decades. To strengthen their already strong partnership, the circuit court asked NCSC facilities-planning specialists to moderate a “Courthouse Vision” session for court and county government leaders. The session resulted in the development of an initial courthouse vision and guiding principles that will benefit from extensive community engagement before starting the design phase. “This was an incredible first step in a broad and collaborative process,” said Steve Mokrohisky, Lane County administrator, who added that this approach will result in a “facility that will stand the test of time; the need to honor history while embracing the future, a public space that is open and welcoming for all people; a facility simple in function with an eye toward serving our customers; and ensuring accountability and value to the public.” After the session, a report was prepared to outline the initial vision and guiding principles for the new courthouse.


Report on sentencing initiatives released

NCSC’s Center for Sentencing Initiatives recently released Use of Risk and Needs Assessment Information in State Sentencing Proceedings, a brief to provide judges more in-depth information on the use of sentencing resources. The brief defines evidence-based sentencing; explains what risk-and-needs-assessment (RNA) instruments are, and how they differ from risk-assessment (RA) instruments; and outlines how judges may appropriately use RNA information to inform community-corrections-related sentencing decisions. The report was funded in part by The Pew Charitable Trusts. For more from NCSC’s Center for Sentencing Initiatives, see www.ncsc.org/csi.


10 Questions with Zana Molina

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.


Zana, whose unusual first name came from a family friend with the same name, started her career at the Colorado Administrative Office of the Courts before she came to work at NCSC. Born in Dallas and reared about an hour west of Boulder, Colorado, she received undergraduate and graduate degrees in criminal justice from the University of Colorado-Denver. She lives in Denver with her husband Buddy, who she met at a music store at a mall near Denver when she was 17. She dreams of becoming a judge.


NCSC reading room


In Complexity, Institutions and Public Policy: Agile Decision-Making in a Turbulent World, Graham Room discusses social policy and provides a new analytical approach to conceptualize and measure social and economic change. How can public policymakers make good decisions? What counts as a good decision? He examines nonlinear policymaking involving a variety of actors who aim to reshape policy with their own strategic objectives. He argues for a new policy analytics: a toolkit for public policymakers. In part one, Room seeks to conceptualize social dynamics with perspectives from complexity and institutionalism. Part two aims to develop an analytical toolkit to guide research into all areas and aspects of social and economic change. Recognizing the human world as a complex adaptive system, Room assesses the tools and considers how they might be developed. Thus, he provides empirical applications to public policy. This book is available from NCSC’s Library.

This month’s Trends in State Courts article examines the benefits of using algorithms in predicting future behavior. Pretrial risk assessments are discussed in terms of providing judges with more information that can lead to better decisions, as well as other potential improvements.


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