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.

Multinational courts in the news

Two courts with multinational reach were recently in the news. The African Court on Human and People’s Rights was recently praised at a meeting of the African Union (AU) as “the premier judicial continental body.” And the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), based in Trinidad, has announced that it will develop a five-year strategic plan “with stakeholder engagement being a top priority.”

Like many courts with cross-border reach, the African Court and the CCJ depend heavily on regional member countries to provide jurisdiction and legitimacy. For example, the CCJ is seventy years old, but only three countries in the region have agreed to grant it appellate jurisdiction. The African Court has been established for more than twenty years, but only 30 member states have joined, and only 25 cases have been finalized in the past decade. Much work remains to be done.