@ the Center: Public confidence in state courts increased in 2018, survey says



DECEMBER 12, 2018

NCSC’s 2018 State of the State Courts survey

Despite a year that saw attacks on judges specifically and on the judicial system generally, public confidence in state courts increased this year, according to NCSC’s 2018 State of the State Courts survey.

A whopping 76 percent of the survey respondents expressed support in their state courts in 2018 – up from 71 percent in 2017. That increased support resulted in higher marks from the public on a wide variety of attributes, including a 12-percent increase in those saying that courts are a good investment of taxpayer dollars, and a 7-percent increase in those who think of courts as places where people work hard.

Since 2014, NCSC has produced the State of the State Courts public opinion survey, with GBA Strategies conducting 1,000 telephone interviews with registered voters nationwide. This year’s survey, which was conducted between Nov. 13 and 17, was developed by the pollster and by an advisory group consisting of national court leaders. The error rate is +/- 3.1, with a 95-percent confidence level.

Here are a few other key findings:

  • Half of those surveyed say the cash bail system favors wealthy defendants, and nearly three-quarters strongly or somewhat support allowing judges to consider ways other than money to decide whether to release defendants before their trials.
  • More than six of 10 respondents say they view themselves as unprepared to effectively represent themselves in court, yet one of five say they have done so. They generally support alternatives to full legal representation, such as online dispute resolution (ODR), self-help centers and limited license legal technicians, but they don’t overwhelmingly embrace any one of them.
  • The public sees pros and cons to ODR. They think it has a lot of potential to resolve traffic violations and consumer debt and small claims cases, but only a small percentage of them say it is a good option to resolve landlord-tenant disputes and divorce and child custody cases.

“While overall views of state court systems have held strong in this environment [of attacks],” said NCSC’s pollster, GBA Strategies, “this narrative has done little to alleviate well-established concerns of bias, inefficiency, and a two-tiered justice system weighted against ‘regular’ people.”

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