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Executive Session Offers Resources for State Courts and Stakeholders

The Executive Session for State Court Leaders in the 21st Century (SJI-07-I-203, and SJI-11-I-064) brought together state court leaders including chief justices, judges, and court administrators, as well as key stakeholders to address an array of issues impacting the state courts, including:

  • adapting to the budget crisis and leadership in times of limited resources;
  • identification of essential principles for effective court governance;
  • the tension between problem solving and decision making;
  • the challenges social media pose to court legitimacy;
  • how courts defend themselves from political attack; and,
  • the concept of chief justices as civic leaders.

The SJI and Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance (DOJ/BJA) funded Executive Session recently released the fourth and fifth papers from the series. Additionally, the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) has created a Vimeo Feed that includes introductory videos explaining the purpose and significance of the papers. A brief explanation of each paper with a link follows:

A Case for Court Governance Principles
In this report, Utah Chief Justice Christine Durham and Utah State Court Administrator Dan Becker describe the limits to what structural changes like centralization can accomplish. Recognizing that court culture inherently stresses independence and self-interest, the authors propose eleven unifying principles to guide states as they seek to improve court performance.

Herding Lions: Shared Leadership of State Trial Courts
Retired Arizona Judge Barbara Mundell and Texas Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson put forward an approach based on the recognition that all courts within a state have a collective responsibility for the quality of justice. They urge that leadership be shared across the different levels of court structure and that local innovation be encouraged and, where effective, replicated statewide.

Opinions as the Voice of the Court: How State Supreme Courts Can Communicate Effectively and Promote Procedural Fairness
This paper discusses the nature of, and trends in, the formation of state supreme court opinions and the methods by which opinions are communicated to the press, the public, members of the bar, and online communities. It considers current practice in light of a field in social psychology called procedural fairness—a practical theory that explains what makes it likely that people are satisfied with and comply with decisions by authorities, such as judges.

Courts Are Conversations: An Argument for Increased Engagement by Court Leaders
Social media expert Garrett Graff explains the true significance of the arrival of social media as it alters the expectations and habits of American society. He advises state court leaders that they “must not only learn how to communicate with new tools; they must also envision new means of judicial engagement with the public through the new social media that can further advance the legitimacy of courts in a democratic society.”

Juror and Jury Use of New Media: A Baseline Exploration
NCSC staff members Paula Hannaford-Agor, David Rottman, and Nicole Waters offer insights into the current and likely future use of new media by jurors at all stages of the process. The project explored the impact of the new media on jurors and jury decision-making as a basis for recommending steps to reconcile new media use with the adversarial process.