The SJI Board of Directors met virtually on June 29, 2020, to make decisions on quarterly grant applications, and approved two new grants to address the COVID-19 pandemic.
A Strategic Initiatives Grant was awarded to the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) to support Phase I of the Conference of Chief Justices/Conference of State Court Administrators (CCJ/COSCA) Post Pandemic Planning Initiative. For this new initiative, the Pandemic Rapid Response Team (RRT) – a group of chief justices and state court administrators established in March 2020 by CCJ and COSCA, is creating a roadmap to help state courts move forward during the COVID-19 pandemic – and after it ends. SJI provided initial emergency funding to launch the RRT.
The RRT is cataloging state court actions to address the pandemic. Webinars that have already been conducted included discussions, presentations and focus on remote hearings, appellate court challenges, Family First Response to COVID-19, jury considerations, courthouse facility considerations, budget and finance issues, personnel issues, and others. All webinars were taped, disseminated and remain available on the NCSC website for continuing education and reference. These archived pandemic webinars have been viewed over 9,500 times to date.
The RRT established a series of working groups that will determine what courts have learned, how to resume court operations, and what they can do beyond to build a stronger judiciary. The working groups are focusing six areas: 1) court management – criminal; 2) court management – civil; 3) court management – children, families, and elders; 4) appellate; 5) technology; and 6) communications. Through this process, the RRT quickly recognized that courts would very soon need mid- and post-pandemic tools and deliverables to assist in all areas. The RRT has developed a framework with a mission, the working groups, and an approach or deliverables called the Post-Pandemic Planning Initiative (PPPI). Each working group includes CCJ and COSCA members, trial court judges and administrators, other court partners, an NCSC lead staff person for organization and coordination, and other NCSC topic experts to assist with the work plan development and final deliverables. The working groups are tasked with identifying what the “new normal” is going to look like, and how to get there.
A Technical Assistance Grant was awarded: to the National Association of Women Judges (NAWJ) to provide judges and other legal professionals with expert assistance via webinar, podcasts, and other media that will address the issues of maintaining access to justice during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. Like previous educational programs, NAWJ will use the expertise of its members and non-members to create these resources.
The next deadline for grant applications is August 1, 2020 (4th Quarter FY 2020).