The state of state judiciaries

It’s the time of year for State of the Judiciary addresses in many states, an opportunity for the Chief Justice of the state to provide the new state legislature with an update on the court system, including its strategic plans and ongoing resource needs. Several State of the Judiciary speeches have been reported in the news, allowing us to get a broad sense of what state courts are planning/hoping for in the coming year. More after the jump.

One common theme this year has been the need for courts to upgrade their technology. In part, this plan is intended to make courts more efficient. But it also has a significant access to justice dimension, as the possibility of more court-sponsored online dispute resolution could avoid costly travel and paperwork for self-represented litigants.

Another major theme is the development of specialized courts to address criminal offenders who are affected by mental health challenges or opioid addiction.

And in light of the ongoing threats to judges nationwide, some courts systems are also requesting additional funding and training for courthouse security.

The news reports suggest that these requests are largely being well-received by state legislatures. Perhaps it is merely early-session politeness, or perhaps legislative leaders recognize the need to adequately fund their coordinate branch of government. In any event, the nature of the court system requests certainly indicate a thoughtful approach to continuous improvement (what Indiana Chief Justice Loretta Rush called “addressing the needs of our customers”), and a general sense that the judiciary and legislature should be able to work together on issues that affect them both.

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