More than two-dozen state court leaders and academics met Tuesday in Arlington, Virginia, to celebrate—and put the final exclamation point on—the work of the Community Engagement in the State Courts Initiative.
First launched as a response to the U.S. Department of Justice investigation of Ferguson, Missouri, the goal of the project has been to get “proximate” to socioeconomically disadvantaged, underserved communities, in order to help advance understanding of how courts can best engage these communities to address structural, institutional, and other problems which undermine trust and confidence in the courts.
“The twin pandemics of COVID-19 and renewed racial unrest around the world made these community engagement projects all the more important,” said Chief Judge Anna Blackburne-Rigsby of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, who served as one of the chairs of the effort, and who currently serves as co-chair of CCJ-COSCA’s Public Engagement, Trust and Confidence committee.
Participants reflected on the long arc of the project, which included a multi-city, PBS-broadcast “Listening Tour” in 2017, but more recently, pilot projects across six jurisdictions, each of which tried a slightly different approach to engaging with their communities. Reports from the six pilot jurisdictions, as well as an online “how to” community engagement toolkit, are available on the NCSC website.
Funding for the multi-year effort came from NCSC, the State Justice Institute, the California Endowment, and the Public Welfare Foundation.