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What are justices saying in the 2022 state of the judiciary speeches?

April 13, 2022

By Alyssa Nekritz

Similar to the State of the Union Address, state of the judiciary speeches highlight important goals that state judiciaries want to accomplish throughout the year as well as highlighting past accomplishments. Some justices have added personal stories to help guide listeners towards judiciary goals like Iowa.

Although most speeches are delivered in January, they can be delivered throughout the year. Some states have speeches every other year (Texas and Colorado, 2021)or not at all. Others still have not published updates for this year or since the pandemic. Additionally, some states provide an annual report and incorporate a written speech within (Washington). Despite the non-uniform nature of speech delivery, NCSC compiled the accessible speeches, linked throughout this article, and summarized the major topics discussed. As of April 5, 2022, there were 16 speeches available on court websites through transcripts or video recordings. We expect these themes to be replicated throughout 2022 as more speeches are given and published on court websites.

Nearly all speeches mentioned the need for technology improvements (Wyoming, Louisiana, and others). The pandemic encouraged, as well as provided funding to courts, to focus on providing access to remote trials, upgrading e-filing, and incorporating those upgrades as pandemic restrictions subside. Technology modernization will remain a goal for the courts for security and access purposes.

The next most common theme was about increasing pay for open judiciary positions and jurors. There is a plethora of openings within court systems, and many believe desirability and the number of applicants will only rise when salaries do, or with overall pay of court employees (Nebraska, South Dakota, and others). Chief Justice Paul Wilson from Missouri states an often repeated sentiment, “All too often, we spend precious tax dollars recruiting and training people, giving them the skills and experience we need them to have, only to see them move to better-paying, private-sector jobs after our training is complete.” Juror pay was also mentioned in California.

Finally, other common themes were mental health court improvements (Idaho and Kansas), access to justice (Utah), diversity, equity, and inclusion committee study results and implementation plans (Georgia, Indiana, and Maine), backlogs from the pandemic (Alaska), and pandemic responses (New York). These are just a few examples of several common themes.

What other important goals are highlighted in state of the judiciary addresses? Share them with us at Knowledge@ncsc.org or call 800-616-6164. Follow NCSC on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, or Vimeo.