October 12, 2022
As of October 4, twenty-one Chief Justices delivered State of Judiciary speeches to their respective communities on the accomplishments of the past year and future goals. These speeches are available on court websites and hyperlinked throughout this article. With only two more speeches expected to come out near the end of the year, NCSC is recapping the common themes from its April report and spotlighting unique ideas that can be replicated across court systems.
The most recent State of Judiciary speeches include Delaware, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Ohio. A theme common through many of the previous and recent speeches was the need to address backlogs. Both Chief Justice of Ohio, Maureen O’Connor and Chief Justice of Minnesota, Lorie Gildea incorporated unique ideas about decreasing backlog along with distinctive technology updates.
Following the pandemic, Ohio implemented a pilot program to send text reminders about court dates. The program came after a 2021 report from the state’s iCOURT Task Force recommended the use of SMS/text messaging to provide general reminders about court appearances. Many courts are experiencing backlogs in both civil and criminal divisions. NCSC’s Court Backlog Reduction Simulator is a unique tool used to help brainstorm solutions and implement policies to decrease caseloads. Additionally, general caseload trends throughout the pandemic are uniquely important considering there will likely be a surge in cases. NCSC can help courts prepare.
Minnesota’s backlog of felony and gross misdemeanor cases decreased by nearly 30% after implementing their strategy of bringing in senior judges, increasing temporary staff, and communicating with the oneCourtMN Hearings Initiative. Perhaps even more critically, Minnesota has moved to make many non-criminal hearings presumptively remote. This is in contrast to other state courts which merely permit, but do not require, or presume, remote hearings.
State of Judiciary speeches also highlighted key technology implementation programs. Many courts are continuing to implement e-filing into their repertoire. NCSC provides guidance on self-represented efiling, blog posts through the Court Technology Bulletin, and a plethora of information on technology trends through the Joint Technology Committee.
Overall, Chief Justice speeches generally discussed pay raises for judiciary positions and jurors. Juror compensation usually sits below the federal or state minimum wage, and judiciary positions need to remain competitive, especially when courts are looking to establish treatment programs and expand mental health accessibility. Courts continue to strive to be innovative in adopting new methods to maintain efficient and fair justice systems.
What are your Chief Justice’s priorities for the courts? Share your information or ask questions via Knowledge@ncsc.org or call 800-616-6164. Follow the National Center for State Courts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Vimeo.