The Pandemic Rapid Response Team (RRT), a group of chief justices and state court administrators established in March 2020, has created a roadmap to help state courts move forward during the pandemic—and after it ends. The plan will be developed by a series of working groups that will determine what courts have learned, how to resume court operations as the curve flattens, and what they can do beyond to build a stronger judiciary.
The working groups will focus on court management, technology, and communications and funding issues. Recommendations will be completed within 90 days, though component parts may be delivered sooner. The RRT was created by the Conference of Chief Justices (CCJ) and the Conference of State Court Administrators (COSCA) and is supported by National Center for State Courts (NCSC). The State Justice Institute (SJI) is providing funding for this initiative.
Texas Chief Justice and CCJ President Nathan Hecht said the RRT has provided critical guidance to courts that had to quickly adapt to new business practices, while maintaining essential court functions. “Since the onset of the pandemic, courts throughout the country have determined to stay open to deliver justice without faltering, no matter the adjustments and sacrifices demanded, but also to protect staff, security, lawyers, parties, jurors, judges, and the public from the risks of disease…We are learning new technology and practices together. Now, our Rapid Response Team is helping us shift attention to what’s next for courts as we begin to dig out.”
New York Chief Judge Janet DiFiore, whose court system is at the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic, said her courts “pivoted quickly to create a virtual court system…As we improve and expand our virtual model, we must also begin planning ahead for a safe return to normal court operations. I am grateful that the CCJ/COSCA RRT is exploring the many difficult public health and operational challenges that will need to be overcome for our state court systems to resume delivering justice safely in what is undoubtedly going to be a ‘new normal.’”
The working groups—composed of court leaders from all levels of courts—will be tasked with identifying what the “new normal” is going to look like, and how to get there.
- Four working groups will be formed to study court management issues in the areas of: civil; criminal; children, families, and elders; and appellate.
- A technology working group will focus on ways that online dispute resolution, videoconferencing, electronic filing, and other tools that have allowed courts to conduct business during the pandemic can be used more in the future.
- A communications working group will provide guidance on how best to communicate with lawmakers, the executive branch, and the public.
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