The Pandemic RRT creates roadmap to guide state courts forward



The Pandemic RRT creates roadmap to guide state courts forward

The Pandemic Rapid Response Team (RRT), a group of chief justices and state court administrators established in March, has created a roadmap to help state courts move forward during this pandemic—and after it ends. The plan will be developed by a series of working groups that will determine what courts have learned, how to resume court operations as the curve flattens, and what they can do beyond to build a stronger judiciary.

The working groups will focus on court management, technology, and communications and funding issues. Recommendations will be completed within 90 days, though component parts may be delivered sooner. The RRT was created by the Conference of Chief Justices (CCJ) and the Conference of State Court Administrators (COSCA) and is supported by NCSC. The State Justice Institute is providing funding.

Texas Chief Justice and CCJ President Nathan Hecht said the RRT has provided critical guidance to courts that had to quickly adapt to new business practices while maintaining essential court functions. “Since the onset of the pandemic, courts throughout the country have determined to stay open to deliver justice without faltering, no matter the adjustments and sacrifices demanded, but also to protect staff, security, lawyers, parties, jurors, judges, and the public from the risks of disease. . . . We are learning new technology and practices together. Now, our Rapid Response Team is helping us shift attention to what’s next for courts as we begin to dig out.”

New York Chief Judge Janet DiFiore, whose court system is at the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic, said her courts “pivoted quickly to create a virtual court system. . . . As we improve and expand our virtual model, we must also begin planning ahead for a safe return to normal court operations. I am grateful that the CCJ/COSCA RRT is exploring the many difficult public health and operational challenges that will need to be overcome for our state court systems to resume delivering justice safely in what is undoubtedly going to be a ‘new normal.’”

The working groups—composed of court leaders from all levels of courts—will be tasked with identifying what the new normal is going to look like and how to get there.

  • Four working groups will be formed to study court management issues in the areas of: civil; criminal; children, families, and elders; and appellate.
  • A technology working group will focus on ways that online dispute resolution, videoconferencing, electronic filing, and other tools that have allowed courts to conduct business during the pandemic can be used more in the future.
  • A communications working group will provide guidance on how best to communicate with lawmakers, the executive branch, and the public.

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NCSC announces winners of 2020 Civics Education Essay Contest

What do Michelle Tan, a twelfth-grader from Arcadia, California, Reid Spears, an eighth-grader from Tinton Falls, New Jersey, and Aydin Daniel, a fifth-grader from Scottsdale, Arizona, all have in common? They’re the first-place winners of NCSC’s 2020 Civics Education Essay Contest, held annually to commemorate Law Day, May 1. Read the winning essay entries here. NCSC received a record number of entrants—1,618 students from 40 states participated in the contest. NCSC received essays from the Philippines, Germany, and North Pole, Alaska. The most essay entries came from Tennessee, New Jersey, and Florida. Elementary and middle school students answered the question, “Why is it important that all citizens have the right to vote?” High school students were asked, “Is voting a right, privilege, or responsibility? Why?” Among the high school submissions, 97 students declared voting as a right, 71 called voting a privilege, 81 said voting is a responsibility, and 86 claimed voting is all three.