Vulnerability 5

Preparing for emergencies

Vision 2032: Using foresight and training, courts have become resilient and nimble and remain fully functional and committed to their mission in light of any crisis

In the past few decades, courts have experienced a range of emergencies, from various weather-related events to pandemics, cyber-attacks, and riots at the courthouse. Crises create a fundamental danger for the rule of law. Continuity of operations plan (COOP) strategies are seldom expansive enough to cover the wide range of emergencies courts may encounter. Without a sufficiently holistic and proactive approach, courts may not have fully adaptable, resilient, and secure procedures and structures to remain efficient frontline service providers during adverse conditions.

Expanding strategies to prepare for the wide range of both familiar and yet-unknown emergencies requires a more collaborative role in government emergency planning than courts are used to, as the executive branch has had the prime responsibility for broader crisis readiness historically. Harnessing the specialized and, at times, siloed expertise and key principles that are already known inside and outside the court system, and integrating innovations and initiatives triggered by the recent pandemic are strategies courts can employ to increase their emergency readiness.

Key future-ready questions

5.1  We review federal and state information about the likelihood of various events that could negatively affect court operations.
5.2  We conduct risk assessments and tabletop exercises to identify court vulnerabilities and mitigation strategies for a wide array of emergencies.
5.3  We coordinate our COOP strategies with other local and state-wide government mitigation plans.
5.4  We focus attention on prevention and sustainability measures (e.g., bolstering courthouses for various emergencies, implementing strategies to reduce emissions and conserve energy and water) to reduce the need for mitigation measures.
5.5  We train our judges and staff on IT protocols that limit the risk of cyberattacks.

Key resources for moving forward to consider