NCSC in the news

Jury duty reform discussed with Pa. lawmakers

Pennsylvania has among the lowest juror compensation rates. In 1980, lawmakers raised daily compensation to $25 for jurors beyond the third day of service. Paula Hannaford-Agor, director of the National Center for State Courts' Center for Jury Studies,  cited increasing threats from social and economic barriers that prevent broader representation of juries. "Even at the maximum amount most people would lose $100 or more out of pocket for every day that they served," Hannaford-Agor said.

New Summits Aim to Strengthen Cybersecurity for U.S. Courts

While all state and local governments wrestle with cyber challenges, the judicial branch faces some specific obstacles.  The National Center for State Courts and Joint Technology Committee - in partnership with the Center for Internet Security and fueled by a State Justice Institute grant - are launching summits across the country to help courts prepare for and recover from cyber disasters. "The goal is they will be able to leave that summit after this education with essentially a template, relationships and the ability to more quickly respond," said NCSC Managing Director Shay Cleary.

Houston Evictions Are Skyrocketing. One Court Is Testing a Solution.

Last year, one in every ten Harris County renters faced losing their home. A new pilot program aims to slow down the process and connect tenants with resources. "We really want to treat a trial before a judge as the last resort, when people have had every other opportunity to try to resolve their dispute without moving forward to trial and adversarial litigation," says Samira Nazem, a lawyer who directs the National Center for State Courts' Eviction Diversion Initiative.

'Shell-shocked' Courts Review Security as Threats Increase

Law enforcement and court administrators are taking a hard look at their security after a gunman shot at the Colorado Supreme Court, a Nevada judge was attacked on the bench, and a nationwide string of bomb threats shuttered judicial buildings across the country all in the space of a week.  "I think many in the court community are a little shell-shocked by what they are seeing," said Nathan Hall, a consultant for the National Center for State Courts specializing in courthouse planning and security. "Court security is not a new concern for most courts, but the recent spate of incidents and threats are heightening the sense of vulnerability."

AI Rapid Response Team Will Help State Courts Adapt

The Conference of Chief Justices and Conference of State Court Administrators have established a new rapid response team to examine how artificial intelligence may affect the courts and suggest best practices for dealing with those effects. The team, which will be supported by National Center for State Courts staff, will evaluate the orders and rules it collects to explore how courts around the country are dealing with the use of AI tools by attorneys and self-represented litigants to create legal pleadings. "AI has the potential to transform a lot of industries, and the courts are no different,” said NCSC Managing Director Shay Cleary. The team - which is co-chaired by District of Columbia Court of Appeals Chief Judge Anna Blackburne-Rigsby and Justin Forkner, the chief administrative officer of the Indiana Supreme Court -- hopes to issue template rules and guidelines for courts to adopt within the next six months.

Evictions in Cook County have caught up to pre-pandemic levels. The lack of affordable housing and rising costs are to blame, experts say

Significant rent increases in recent years are boosting eviction levels as many tenants are unable to pay higher monthly rents. Property owners say rent increases are unavoidable because of their own rising costs.  Samira Nazem - who leads the eviction diversion initiative at the National Center for State Courts - works with 22 courts across the country to model different eviction diversion methods. Nazem said the initiative's goal is not only to prevent evictions, but also to get more tenants to engage in the court process, more time to move out and fewer judgments from the court demanding payment.

A Mountain To Climb: The Inaccessibility of Rural Courts

Long distances, geography, weather and even wildlife can make traveling to the local courthouse difficult for residents of rural communities, hampering access to the legal system, according to attorneys. Nathan Hall, an architect and court management consultant at the National Center for State Courts, elaborates on some of these challenges along with significant increases in the cost of courthouse construction.

Judicial task force will take deep look at legal ed, bar admissions

A new group comprised of nine state supreme court chief justices and three state court administrators will make recommendations to state supreme courts regarding legal education, the bar admissions process and the declining number of attorneys dedicated to public-interest law.  New Hampshire Chief Justice Gordon J. MacDonald and Danielle Hirsch, a managing director in the National Center for State Courts Court Consulting division, discussed several aspects of legal education that will be examined by the Committee on Legal Education and Admissions Reform.

Will a Significant Pay Raise Make Texas Jurors Show Up?

Gov. Greg Abbot signed a law that will increase the minimum payment for the first day of jury duty from $6 to $20.  But 75 percent of people in Dallas County who receive a jury summons throw it away, ignore it or otherwise skip showing up. A 2022 study by the National Center for State Courts found that the average juror pay for the first day of service nationwide was $16.61.

Courts Consider the Coming Risk of Deepfake Evidence

Catching convincing AI-fabricated evidence is still a work in progress, but courts could benefit from thinking now about how they might confront the challenges posed by the emerging technology. National Center for State Courts Principal Court Management Consultant Jannet Okazaki and Data Scientist Andre Assumpcao emphasized the need for courts to adapt to this new threat during the recent Court Technology Conference in Phoenix.

Douglas County District Court selected for eviction diversion initiative

The Douglas County District Court has received a National Center for State Courts Eviction Diversion Initiative grant to implement new strategies and alternatives to the traditional eviction track. The county was selected through a competitive application process, along with courts from Colorado, Kentucky, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Washington.

Threats, slurs and menace: Far-right websites target Fulton County grand jurors

Before many people had a chance to fully read through the Fulton County, Ga., indictment against former President Donald Trump and 18 co-defendants, malicious online actors had already done their work. On a far-right website, where the QAnon conspiracy theory originated, an anonymous user shared a list of the 23 grand jurors with their supposed full names, ages and addresses. In the past, courts have relied primarily on two techniques to protect jurors in high-profile cases, said Paula Hannaford-Agor, director of the Center for Jury Studies at the National Center for State Courts.