Court Services

Systemic Change initiatives

December 2022

Directory of Systemic Change Initiatives, First Edition

The Blueprint for Racial Justice Directory of Systemic Change Initiatives was developed to serve as a resource for state court leaders who are looking for guidance on the implementation of policies, practices, and programs designed to promote equity. It describes over 60 court efforts to implement 23 types of initiatives across 5 areas of reform.

Is your court doing work in these areas? Let us know. Submit an entry for a future edition of the Directory by completing the online Directory Submission Form.

Pretrial Reform series

April 20, 2022

Implementation challenges and opportunities roundtable

In this session, legal system professionals from a few jurisdictions share the different paths their jurisdictions took to improve the fairness and effectiveness of their pretrial systems. Their presentation included a discussion about the issues you face and the tools you have or lack to address these issues in your quest to improve your pretrial systems. Faculty is available to provide practical suggestions for getting started on your path to improvement.

April 6, 2022

Research on pretrial assessment, release and detention

This session covers information essential for advancing the pretrial system in your state. Topics include the empirical research, important issues and practical considerations of pretrial assessment; actuarial assessment tools, including bias and disparity; the effectiveness of pretrial release conditions; and the harms of pretrial detention. Participants learn how the empirical research has supported the historical and legal foundations of the pretrial system in the United States.

March 23, 2022

Pretrial historical and legal foundations

The history of bail (pretrial release) and “no bail” (pretrial detention), along with the overarching legal principles intertwined with that history, have been integral parts of judicial education in this generation of pretrial reform. The history and legal principles are frequently seen in court opinions as well as in un-pressured attempts to make improvements to the criminal pretrial systems in the states. This webinar covers historical notions of release/detain in both England and America, the rise and fall of various legal claims surrounding bail, numerous threads of outside pressure leading to change and the articulation of various future release/detain models likely to be adopted in America.

Fines & Fees series

April 27, 2022

Fair justice for all: Recommendations for imposing and enforcing financial sanctions

This session utilizes the Arizona Fair Justice for all report and recommendations to provide specific recommendations for making the imposition of financial sanctions fair and convenient. The session also explains the Phoenix Compliance Assistance Program (CAP), which allows a person in default of a financial sanction to get reinstated, their driver’s license returned and placed on a reasonable financial plan. An evaluation of this program will be made available. The program outlines other changes to rules, statutes and practices that were made in Arizona.

April 13, 2022

Cost & fines: How a community conversation changed lives in the Ocean State

This session demonstrates how the power of strong community partnerships and “off the bench” direct engagement can drive reform, bridge the trust gap between judicial officers and court users and change lives. The session also highlights Rhode Island’s unprecedented “Cost & Fines” statewide initiative, lessons learned from the pilot program and practical tools and resources that participants can use to launch a similar program in their respective state or jurisdictions.

No Knock Warrants

May 4, 2022

Knock-knock (NOT!). Who’s there?

Court leaders from Kentucky, New Jersey and Arizona share how they reformed their criminal warrant process to meet public safety, justice system and racial equity goals in the wake of Breonna Taylor’s and other high-profile cases during this webinar.

Jury Diversity series and resources

September 2022

Eliminating Shadows and Ghosts: Findings from a Study of Inclusiveness, Representativeness, and Record Accuracy in Master Jury Lists and Juror Source Lists in Three States

The master jury list is the first step in the complex process of assembling a pool of prospective jurors.  To ensure that the process is efficient and that the resulting jury pool reflects the demographic composition of the community, the master jury list should be broadly inclusive of the adult population, geographically and demographically representative, and contain accurate address records. This report highlights the implications of using poor quality juror source lists and failing to identify duplicate records during process of merging multiple lists, which resulted in substantially over-inclusive source lists and master jury lists in all three states.  A Blueprint for Racial Justice white paper, Inferring Race and Ethnicity Demographics from U.S. Census Data: Testing the Feasibility for Use in State Court Disparity Analysis, expands upon work from this master jury list project to further explore techniques for conducting disparity analyses when individual-level race and ethnicity data are not available.

June 30, 2022

Jury selection: beyond intentional racial bias

Several states are currently evaluating or have recently evaluated whether peremptory challenges serve any meaningful purpose in today’s environment, whether peremptory challenges are used discriminatorily, and whether existing remedies, such as Batson challenges, are sufficient to overcome any discriminatory motivations in the use of peremptory challenges. The webinar panel discusses the history and impact of Batson and preemptory challenges on jury selection. The group also provides specific actions and methods to identify implicit, institutional and unconscious race and ethnic biases during jury selection.

June 17, 2022

Implicit bias and juror decision making

Since 1789, the U.S. Constitution has guaranteed the right to a trial by an impartial jury. Three hundred and thirty-one years after ratification, the United States continues to wrestle with what impartial means in an increasingly diverse nation. Answering this question is crucial to maintaining and increasing confidence in our courts. Historically it was assumed that judges and lawyers were capable of identifying and removing biased jurors during voir dire and that the remaining jurors were thus presumed to be impartial. Over the past several decades, we have learned about implicit bias and how it affects decision-making by all participants in criminal trials, including judges and jurors. Other webinars in this series have considered the value of a diverse jury, securing diverse jury pools and selecting a jury (voir dire and peremptory challenges). This webinar explores implicit bias: what it is, and points judges should think about in order to mitigate contemporary notions of implicit bias in American jury trials and increase public confidence.

June 10, 2022

Criminal history exclusions and jury diversity

In all but one U.S. jurisdiction, individuals with a prior felony conviction are restricted from serving as jurors. In the vast majority of these jurisdictions, such exclusions are permanent, barring those with felonious criminal histories from ever taking part in jury service. This webinar discusses those statutes and how such exclusions impact the composition of jury panels, deliberation quality, juror satisfaction and the legitimacy of the jury as a representative body. Panelists detail empirical research in this area, as well as recent legislative reforms in California that restored juror eligibility to those with prior felony criminal.

June 1, 2022

The path to a diverse jury panel

Getting our juries to reflect our diverse population so people are judged by their peers has been a struggle for many states. This panel discusses how a jury selection process impacts the goal of achieving a diverse panel and what specific factors have stood in the way of that goal or have helped achieve a more inclusive jury. Specific jury engagement practices that can enhance the inclusion of eligible members from diverse communities is also addressed.

May 26, 2022

Jury diversity and its role in promoting confidence in the court system

Over 50 years ago, former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall observed, “When any large and identifiable segment of the community is excluded from jury service… its exclusion deprives the jury of a perspective on human events that may have unsuspected importance in any case that may be presented.” This webinar reviews behavioral science research on how a group’s composition affects its dynamics and performance, and the ways in which jury diversity adds to the deliberative process and bolsters confidence in our court system.