A multitude of forces, internal and external, influence the ability of the judicial system tooperate effectively and to ensure that those who seek access to the courts are provided equalaccess to fair and timely resolution of disputes.External forces affecting the courts includepopulation declines in certain areas and population shifts from one area to another; an agingpopulation; a more racially and ethnically diverse population; the emerging interest in andsuccess of specialty courts, such as juvenile and adult drug courts; emerging technologies;and the expectation by citizens and policy-makers that courts will operate both efficientlyand effectively in providing timely resolution of disputes.Internal forces affecting thejudicial system include policies and procedures that compromise the system's ability toeffectively provide judicial services; administrative practices or arrangements that contributeto confused and inconsistent implementation of system policies and procedures; and a lackof clarity and commitment concerning the system's need to operate as a whole rather thanas a collection of independent parts.
To effectively identify and respond to present and future demands, the judicial system mustconsider ways of reorganizing its institutional resources and methods of improving itsoperation to ensure that the public's trust and confidence in an independent judiciary arewell-served.
The following segments make several recommendations concerning actions to be taken orcontinued to successfully implement change within the judiciary.The Judicial PlanningCommittee is aware there are initiatives in existence or under consideration in some of theidentified areas.These recommendations are, nevertheless, intended to underscore theimportance of taking appropriate measures to manage change within the judiciary.
I.Public Trust and Confidence
The public's well-founded knowledge and accurate perception of the judicial system isessential to the continued vitality and efficacy of an independent judiciary.The Committeemakes the following recommendations:
The judicial system should establish a speaker's bureau through which judgesand court personnel can routinely provide information to the publicconcerning the operation of the courts and the role of an independent judiciaryin a democratic society.
The judicial system should develop readily available general informationabout the courts and court operations.
The judicial system should develop methods to appropriately assistself-represented litigants who seek access to the judicial process.
The majority of citizen court experiences are in municipal court and thoseexperiences contribute to the public's perception of and trust and confidence in thejudiciary. Therefore, the judicial system should ensure that municipal courts, as a partof the unified judicial system, provide fair and effective resolution of their cases.
II.Use of Technology
Shifting and declining populations and the allocation of judicial resources underscore theimportance of technological assistance in providing adequate judicial services.Technologycan serve as a critical tool in support of the fair, timely, and just resolution of disputes.TheCommittee makes the following recommendations:
The judicial system should enhance its Unified Court Information System toensure access to current, accurate, and complete case information.
The judicial system should expand the Unified Court Information System toall counties in the state and extend availability of the system to municipalcourts.
The judicial system should, through the Joint Procedure Committee or othercommittees as appropriate, develop procedures for electronic filing of courtdocuments, both at the Supreme Court and trial court levels.
The judicial system should ensure public access to all case schedulinginformation and court documents.
III. Dispute Resolution
Alternative methods of resolving disputes can serve an important role in ensuring that thoseinvolved in disputes are afforded appropriate mechanisms for the timely, cost-effective, andhumane disposition of their cases.The Committee makes the following recommendations:
The judicial system should investigate and implement appropriate alternative,therapeutic justice programs, such as juvenile and adult drug courts.
The judicial system should investigate the possibility of providingcommunity-baseddispute resolution programs.
The judicial system should consider the utility of different dispute resolutionprocesses to address the unique demands represented by an aging population.
The judicial system should investigate and coordinate methods of marshalingcommunity resources in support of dispute resolution programs.
The judicial system should monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of recentlyadopted court rules providing for mediation services.
The judicial system should provide aggressive case management and screening toidentify cases appropriate for mediation and to move all cases to disposition withoutundue delay.
IV.Administrative and Operational SupportStructure
The administrative and operational support structure of the judicial system mustensure the system's ability to respond effectively to changing demands for judicial servicesand must ensure that adequate resources are available and adequately allocated to providetimely, fair, humane, and affordable resolution of disputes.The Committee makes thefollowing recommendations:
The judicial system should constantly measure judicial workload and systemperformance and increase efficiency in providing judicial services consistentwith the fair, timely, and humane resolution of disputes.
The judicial system should support efforts to ensure the availability of courtfacilities conducive to the fair, timely, and humane resolution of disputes.
The judicial system should ensure municipal courts, as integral parts of theunified judicial system, are sufficiently supported and administered to providefair and timely services and resolution of cases.
The administrative organization of the judicial system should reflect a commitmentto effective and efficient provision of judicial services while preserving the constitutionalauthority of the Chief Justice.An appropriate administrative organization should maximizethe skills, authority, and responsibility of administrative support personnel; maximize theability of judges to provide adequate and timely judicial services; and minimizeorganizational and procedural differences based on rural and urban locations.Anappropriate administrative organization should support the development of broad andconsistent policies and procedures for the orderly administration of the trial courts.TheCommittee makes the following recommendations:
The present Council of Presiding Judges should be replaced by a Councilconsisting of approximately nine members.The Chief Justice should serve aschair of the Council.Other members would include one justice of theSupreme Court, the presiding judge of each administrative unit, one judgeelected at large from each administrative unit, and at least one lawyer.TheState Court Administrator should participate in Council activities in themanner designated by the Chief Justice.Council responsibilities would include developing policies and procedures governing the administration and operation of the districtand juvenile court system.Consideration of broader responsibilities forthe Council should take place on a periodic basis.
The state should be divided into three administrative units for purposes ofassuring implementation of administrative policies and procedures developedby the Council.A presiding judge would be selected for each administrativedistrictPresent judicial districts for purposes of judge election should beretained.The administrative units would consist of the following judicialdistricts:
- Unit 1: the Northeast and Northeast Central judicialdistricts.
- Unit 2: the Southeast and East Central judicial districts.
- Unit 3: the South Central, Southwest, and Northwestjudicial districts.
One trained trial court administrator should be employed for eachadministrative unit.Each administrator should be hired, after consultationwith the presiding judge of the unit, by the state court administrator and shouldbe supervised by the state court administrator.
Trial court administrators and administrative staff should have responsibilityin all areas of administrative practice and procedure within the respectiveadministrative units.
Trial court administrators should ensure compliance with personnel policiesand compliance with administrative policies and procedures adopted by theCouncil and policies and procedures adopted by the judges within theadministrative unit which are not inconsistent with Council policies andprocedures.
Trial court administrators should have supervisory responsibility for all trialcourt personnel, including state-employed clerks of court.Some of thatresponsibility could be delegated to local administrative assistants.
The committee structure of the judicial system should be evaluated and reorganized toensure appropriate divisions of responsibilities and methods of reporting.The Committeemakes the following recommendations:
The current Rule on Procedural Rules, Administrative Rules andAdministrative Orders should be evaluated to determine its continued vitalityand whether its procedural requirements are relevant and appropriate. Notwithstanding paragraphs 3, 4, and 5, all current committees should bereviewed to determine whether committees could be combined or dissolved.
The Board of Law Examiners, Judicial Conduct Commission, and DisciplinaryBoard should continue under the auspices of the Supreme Court.
All committees associated with the development of trial court administrativepolicies and procedures should be established under the Council and report allproposals and recommendations to the Council. Membership of thecommittees would be determined by the Chief Justice, as chair of the Council, after consultation with the Council.These committees include the CaseflowManagement Committee, Court Services Administration Committee, JuryStandards Committee, Juvenile Drug Court Advisory Committee, JuvenilePolicy Board, Committee on Trial Court Legal Research, Committee on TrialCourt Operations, and the UCIS Advisory Committee.
Joint bench-bar committees and other committees responsible for specializedareas of inquiry other than trial court administration should continue under theSupreme Court.Membership of the committees would be determined ascurrently provided under applicable rules, orders, or policies.Thesecommittees include the Joint Procedure Committee, Joint Committee onAlternative Dispute Resolution, Joint Committee on Attorney Standards,Commission on Cameras in the Courtroom, Joint Committee on Civil LegalServices for the Poor, Court Technology Committee, Gender FairnessImplementation Committee, Commission on Judicial Education, Committeeon Tribal and State Court Affairs, Judicial Planning Committee, JudiciaryStandards Committee, Legal Counsel for Indigents Commission, PersonnelAdvisory Board, and the Public Trust and Confidence ImplementationCommittee.
The Judicial Conference should be retained as a forum for discussion of issuesaffecting the judiciary and for educational programs.The Judicial Conferenceshould retain the following committees: the Judicial Ethics AdvisoryCommittee, the Committee on Legislation, and the Committee on JudicialCompensation.
The judicial system should consider adopting a rule governing the role andresponsibilities of the Judicial Conference.