Opinions as the Voice of the Court: How State Supreme Courts Can Communicate Effectively and Promote Procedural Fairness

In Opinions as the Voice of the Court, Texas Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson, retired California State Court Administrator William Vickrey, and Douglas Denton, senior court services analyst for the California AOC, argue for the importance of supreme courts to issue opinions written in a way that more effectively communicates the fairness of the process. In this paper, the authors draw on the social-psychological field of procedural fairness to demonstrate ways appellate courts can enhance their legitimacy and understanding in the eyes of litigants, attorneys, and the public.

William C. Vickrey served as California Administrative Director of the Courts from 1992 until his retirement in 2011. He previously served as the state court administrator for the Utah court system and as executive director for the Utah State Division of Youth Corrections. He is a past-president of the Conference of State Court Administrators.

Douglas G. Denton is a Senior Court Services Analyst at the California Administrative Office of the Courts, Judicial Council of California. He contributed to the Council’s landmark 2005–2006 public trust and confidence assessment and since 2007 has been lead staff for the Procedural Fairness in California initiative.

Wallace B. Jefferson was appointed Chief Justice of Texas on September 14, 2004, having served on the Court since 2001. He served in 2010–11 as president of the Conference of Chief Justices and as Chair of the National Center for State Courts Board of Directors. He is the namesake for the Wallace B. Jefferson Middle School in San Antonio.

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The Executive Session develops and answers questions that U.S. state courts will face in the foreseeable future, attempting to clarify what leaders of state courts can and should do to distinguish their role in our system of democratic governance.