As 2020 began, the production of Trends in State Courts – the annual journal of the National Center for State Courts (NCSC), was humming along. As the year progressed, the COVID-19 pandemic and protests against systemic racism proved to be effective disrupters and led to a “stop-the-presses moment.”
This year’s edition opens with a series of statements on racial justice from six state supreme court chief justices, and follows with an introduction from NCSC President Mary McQueen that recognizes how the turmoil in the world is affecting the courts. Trends then highlights the work NCSC has done to inform the courts, including maps that show how state courts nationwide have reacted to pandemic-related challenges.
The maps lead to the first article, Leading During the Chaos of a Pandemic, by Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan Hecht and David Slayton, Administrative Director of Texas’ Office of Court Administration. In addition to the pandemic, the state courts in Texas also had to deal with a cyberattack.
“Our training has taught us to gather information, analyze it, propose and refine a solution, and implement— sometimes over months or years,” Chief Justice Hecht and Slayton wrote. “The chaos of the pandemic and the cyberattack have not fit well within that mold. In fact, during the challenges of recent days, the information sometimes changes hourly or by the minute. We were faced with making decisions without all the information, but the alternative was to delay a decision—a delay that could cost lives or cause further damage. Rather than being paralyzed with inaction due to fear of making a mistake, court leaders must act without fear.”
This year’s 96-page edition of Trends includes a diverse slate of stories:
- On Demand: Transforming Virtual Remote Interpreting
- Access Empowers: How ODR Increased Participation and Positive Outcomes in Ohio
- The Family Justice Initiative: A Work in Progress
- So, this is 50: The Gray Divorcees
- State Courts’ Responsibility to Convene, Collaborate and Identify Individuals Across Systems
- What Will Shape the Future of Courthouse Design?
- When the Law and a Judge’s Personal Opinions Collide