NCSC helping Arkansas train future court administrators

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Pictured left: Former director of the Arkansas Administrative Office of the Courts J.D. Gingerich; Top right: Former Arkansas Supreme Court Justice Annabelle Tuck; Bottom right: University of Arkansas law school students

NCSC helping Arkansas train future court administrators

A meeting in Virginia in 2018 to review the Institute for Court Management’s Fellows Program raised an interesting question that no one could answer: Since many court administrators start out as lawyers, why don’t law schools offer courses on court administration?

The people at the meeting concluded that they should, so J.D. Gingerich, the former director of the Arkansas Administrative Office of the Courts, returned to Arkansas, where he now teaches law, and met with the state’s chief justice and the current AOC director. They decided the University of Arkansas’ law school should offer such a course and expose students to court administration work, leading to the creation of the newly developed Arkansas State Court Fellows Program.

The program is a by-product of NCSC’s ICM Fellows Program, the highest and most rigorous certification program offered by ICM. Becoming an ICM Fellow is a multiyear, multistep process that about 1,300 court professionals from 47 states, the District of Columbia and 11 countries have accomplished since 1970.

Becoming an Arkansas State Court Fellow requires students to complete a 30-hour court administration course, which Gingerich is teaching now. (John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City and the University of Denver’s Sturm College of Law also offers courses in court administration.) Only two Arkansas law school students per year will be selected to become fellows. As part of the fellowship, they’ll take six ICM courses to become certified court managers.

The Arkansas State Court Fellows Program makes a lot of sense in a state where “a uniform structure for the provision of trial court administration did not exist,” Gingerich said.

Arkansas State Court Administrator Marty Sullivan said creating the program “addresses an unmet need in legal education, provides future attorneys with significant exposure to the administration of the state justice system, and connects some key academic concepts to real-world challenges for students and court staff.”

Gingerich said it also makes sense for states with a more highly developed court administration structure to teach law school students about court administration, and he hopes that the lessons learned from efforts in Arkansas can help other states.

New CJS report: "Reforming the Grand Jury Indictment Process"

Widespread publicity about incidents involving police use of lethal force has led to increased public concern that police are not being held adequately accountable by the criminal justice system, beginning with the failure of grand juries to return indictments against police officers suspected of using excessive force.  The NCSC Center for Jury Studies (CJS) highlights state and federal efforts to address these concerns in a new article, Reforming the Grand Jury Indictment Process: Recent Efforts to Improve Public Confidence in Cases Involving Police Use of Legal Force (2019). The paper explains the historical background for grand juries and how they differ from trial juries. Many of the monograph graphics are also available in interactive format on the NCSC Center for Jury Studies web page.