El Paso to convert civil court into family court to combat backlog

El Paso County, Texas will convert one of its existing civil courts into a family court in 2019, in order to combat a significant backlog of family cases.  The county is currently operating with 1.5 fewer full time family court judges than the number recommended by the state court administrator.  It receives about 16,000 family court filings each year.

This is an excellent example of an interdependent court system engaging in proactive planning to combat resource deficiencies.  The county knows that it is likely to receive many more family court cases than civil cases in the coming years, and cannot reasonably expect to receive more help in the form of full-time judges.  The change both promotes efficient and effective administration of justice, and signals to the resource providers in the state legislature the need for more judgeships.

 

Washington court faces 300 percent increase in case filings after city implements red light cameras

In another example of external decisions directly affecting internal court operations, the state courts located in Des Moines, Washington reported a 300 percent increase in case filings after the city implemented red light cameras.

The impact of the cameras was “much greater than we anticipated,” [Judge Lisa Leone] told [the city] Council.

The judge said she was “so impressed with every single” member of her staff.

“Just today (May 11) there was a line out the door … every clerk was on the phone taking the time for every one who has questions about the cameras or anything else.”

 

Federal courts present FY18 budget request to Congress

Judge Julia Gibbons, the Chair of the Judicial Conference’s Budget Committee, appeared before a House Appropriations subcommittee yesterday to request $7.2 billion in funding for the federal courts for Fiscal Year 2018.  She was joined by James Duff, the Director of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.  The full testimony of both Judge Gibbons and Director Duff are available at the link.

 

Court administrator nominated to Supreme Court of Philippines

The Philippine Judges Association (PJA) has nominated court administrator Jose Midas Marquez to an open seat on that country’s Supreme Court.  Marquez has also served as a law clerk and a public information officer.  In announcing the nomination, the PJA noted that Marquez  “brought significant innovations and reforms in the dispensation of justice in the first and second level courts.”

There have been instances of American judges going straight from administrative positions to judgeships, but rarely is familiarity with the court’s internal procedures a selling point to Congress and state nominating commissions.  Perhaps it should be.

How a single ministerial appointment provides a window into the institutional character of courts

 The Jerusalem Post reports that Israel’s Religious Services Ministry has agreed to appoint a woman as deputy director of the country’s rabbinical courts sometime within the next three months. The decision comes in the wake of pressure from both Israel’s High Court of Justice and the women’s rights organization Mavoi Satum.

The decision to break the gender barrier for the rabbinical courts, even for a purely administrative appointment, offers some surprising insights into the relationship between the rabbinical courts, Israel’s secular judicial system, and the society in which they both operate. More after the jump.

Continue reading “How a single ministerial appointment provides a window into the institutional character of courts”

Chicago judge resigns over traffic court service

I reported last week on Richard Cooke, a newly elected Cook County judge who refused to take his initial assignment at traffic court — a way station at which almost every new Chicago judge cuts his or her teeth.  Judge Cooke has now resigned his judgeship.

Courts, like most organizations, place certain requirements on membership.  The court system itself may not be able to choose its members (who are elected by the public), but it can — and sensibly does — seek to train and socialize them into the basics of organizational life.  For whatever reason, Judge Cooke tried to circumvent at least part of that socialization process, to the detriment of both him and the court system.

Delaware works to improve its problem-solving courts

Many states have established “problem-solving courts” over the last two decades.  These are specialized courts whose mission goes beyond the standard determination of guilt  and punishment, and instead seeks to address the causes underlying problematic behaviors.  Across the country, problem-solving courts have been established to deal with (among other things) drug offenses, mental health issues, sex offenses, truancy, and gun violence.

The State of Delaware has recently undertaken its first internal evaluation of its problem-solving courts, and is now looking to streamline and consolidate some of their work.  In particular, the public report describing the evaluation recommends “a unified statewide treatment court.”  Unifying the state’s problem-solving courts, the report suggested, would also allow the judiciary and court administrators to address treatment and training issues more efficiently.

As the state courts continues to expand their reach beyond a traditional, arms-length adjudicative role, these types of analyses will be all the more important.  Delaware is said to be working with the National Center for State Courts and the National Association of Drug Court Professionals on this project, and hopefully the lessons gleaned from the project will work their way to other state court systems as well.