Collins on Problem-Solving Courts

Erin Collins (Richmond) has posted a new article, The Problem of Problem-Solving Courts, which looks at the origins of problem-solving courts and questions whether they are really meeting their stated goals. (Problem-solving courts are criminal courts designed to address the unique needs of a specific group of offenders, like drug courts or veterans courts.)

Her conclusion (from the abstract) is quite interesting:

This Article … contends [that] problem-solving courts do effectively address a problem — it is just not the one we think. It argues that these courts revive a sense of purpose and authority for judges in an era marked by diminishing judicial power. Moreover, it demonstrates that the courts have developed and proliferated relatively free from objective oversight. Together, these new insights help explain why the problem-solving court model endures. They also reveal a new problem with the model itself — its entrenchment creates resistance to alternatives that might truly reform the system.

It’s an intriguing article that will cause me to think more carefully about the proliferation of problem-solving courts across the country.

A good primer on how drug courts work

Howstuffworks.com has a detailed and very interesting article on the history of drug courts and the work they do today, with a particular focus on the courts in Buffalo, New York. It’s a good read for those interested in how the court system has adapted to contemporary challenges.

Missouri’s Chief Justice seeks more treatment courts

It’s State of the Judiciary season all across the United States, with chief justices traveling to state legislatures to lay out the success and challenges of their respective judicial branches. In Missouri, Chief Justice Zel Fischer used this year’s address to seek support for additional treatment courts — state courts specially designed to work with offenders who have drug addictions.¬† Fifteen Missouri counties currently lack a treatment court.

The growth of specialized courts like treatment courts across the country reflect¬† growing sense that the court system can better address criminal and other socially undesirable activity by becoming more involved in preventing its root causes. This is a divergence from the traditional role of the courts, designed only to neutrally determine guilt or liability in an individual case. Courts are increasingly seen as a component of a larger network of public and private organizations that can, collectively, address such issues with more depth. Hopefully the impact of specialized courts will be the subject of further study — and if a positive impact is shown, court systems and legislatures will be willing to further experiment with the systemic structure of state judicial systems.