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Update on the State Supreme Court Initiative (SSCI)

With the support of the SJI, the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) and William   Mary Law School’s Institute for Bill of Rights Law launched the State Supreme Court Initiative (SSCI) in FY 2010 (SJI-10-N-147). The project began with three initial goals: 1) to study and report on the work and decisions of state supreme courts; 2) to encourage journalists and academics to engage in similar study; and, 3) to provide a new vehicle for public education about the important work of state supreme courts

The primary vehicle through which SSCI is working towards these objectives is a website featuring: 1) a database of detailed information and statistics about state supreme courts and their opinions; and 2) a blog for the state supreme court decisions modeled off the highly successful SCOTUSblog for U.S. Supreme Court decisions. In the fall of 2010, SSCI convened a task force made up of prominent legal journalists, state supreme court scholars, transparency advocates, clerks, and judges. The task force discussed the shape of the project and plotted strategies to move ahead. At the suggestion of the task force, SSCI undertook a two-month trial last spring during which two William   Mary Law students explored state supreme court information networks and approaches to covering state supreme courts. The students analyzed various aspects of state supreme courts (opinion release schedules, volume, opinion release format, etc.). They also tested how to blog about state supreme court outcomes, getting a sense of how much time it takes and what resources are needed.

The trial proved to be a great learning experience. Building on this work, a state supreme court “bloginar” course began with a series of lectures on state supreme courts as institutions. Law students have been assigned five state supreme courts to cover. Students are currently blogging weekly about state supreme court outcomes, upcoming cases, and court composition matters, generating approximately 30 posts per week. In addition, the students are creating profiles with information about the unique history and make up of each state supreme court.

The SSCI will rollout the blog/website and products by the summer of 2012.