NCSC working to help courts achieve racial justice, equity & inclusion



NCSC working to help courts achieve racial justice, equity & inclusion

The killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis last year prompted court leaders in several states to vow to make the judicial system fairer to all. The Conference of Chief Justices and the Conference of State Court Administrators followed up with a pledge to improve the system because “too many persons, especially persons of color, lack confidence in the fairness of our courts and our criminal justice system.”

In an effort to turn that around, NCSC has launched a two-pronged plan: establishing a racial justice resource center and developing a data-driven tool to guide court leaders.

NCSC analysts are developing the resource center, which will, among other things, provide information about what states have done or are doing to improve in the areas of racial equity and inclusion.

“Certain states have done work in these areas, but it’s not necessarily known to court leaders in other states,” said Edwin Bell, NCSC’s first director of Racial Justice, Equity and Inclusion. “This should be compiled in one place. We can do that.”

Bell, who is overseeing this work, said NCSC’s Center for Jury Studies is one model for what this resource center can look like. He singled out a handful of states – New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Texas, Oregon and California – that have implemented initiatives to achieve racial justice and inclusion. What has been done in those and other states might not work everywhere, Bell said, but the resource center will at the very least connect court leaders in different states who can brainstorm and share information, and it will be the place to go to find out about training and other educational opportunities.

The other part of the two-pronged plan involves creating a tool that NCSC’s researchers will develop.

“My vision,” Bell said, “is that state court leaders will be able to take this tool and use it as a guide to take them in the direction they need to go and address the issues they need to address.”

Using data that courts have collected, the tool will identify issues of inequity that are not just related to race but also to gender and age. He said the data may reveal inequities in everything from sentencing in felony cases to hiring in courthouses.

“The information that comes from this tool will serve as an awakening so we can know what’s really going on,” he said.

Preliminary work on the tool has begun.

Like the Pandemic Rapid Response Team, an advisory board of chief justices and state court administrators is being established and will direct working groups made up of judges and other court leaders and staffed by NCSC. @theCenter will provide updates on this work.

NCSC’s 2020 Annual Report is out!

How many disinformation workshops did NCSC conduct in 2020? How many states did our consultants work in last year? How many international field offices did we have?

The answers to these questions – and many others – can be found in our recently released 2020 Annual Report (and at the bottom of this story). The report highlights the work we did last year to help state courts operate more effectively.

Here’s a snippet of what you’ll see in the report:

  • In 2020, the Pandemic Rapid Response Team was created to help guide state courts as they dealt with the pandemic’s impact on court operations.
  • Our International Division used video technology to work with judges, court officials and judicial educators in Asia, Africa, Central America and the Caribbean.
  • NCSC launched a new, mobile-friendly website that made it easier for users to read about our work on cell phones as well as on tablets and computer screens. Check it out at

Answers to the questions in the first paragraph: 7, 16 and 37.