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 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 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.

New Chicago judge seeks to choose his own path

Like many organizations, court systems have deliberate processes for acculturating and training new members — a process sometimes referred to as “socialization.”  Forms of court socialization include formal processes like “baby judge” schools to provide training on opinion writing and docket management, as well as informal processes of acclimating new judges to the ins and outs of their jobs.

In Cook County, Illinois, part of the socialization and acclimation process involves assigning new judges to traffic court.  But Judge Richard Cooke, a former private practitioner who won an unopposed judicial election last November, rejected his traffic court assignment and apparently never reported for duty.  Judge Cooke claims a conflict of interest, alleging that he has financial stake in a car wash that cleans city-owned vehicles.  Other are not buying it:

Critics say the tempest is an illustration of all that’s wrong with selecting judges in Cook County — where cash and political connections at times carry more weight than temperament and ability. Daley Center judges say traffic court is the best place for a new judge to learn how to manage a courtroom, master a new area of law and do their job in a setting where the possible damage they can inflict is relatively minimal.

Former top federal prosecutor Carrie Hamilton, who helped prosecute ex-governor Rod Blagojevich, and former Winston & Strawn partner Raymond Mitchell both spent time in traffic court before moving into other assignments.

The court administration initially responded by assigning Judge Cooke only to conduct marriage ceremonies.  With the outcry continuing, however, this week the circuit court’s executive committee sent the issue to the state Judicial Inquiry Board.  This is the first step in a possible disciplinary action against Judge Cooke.  We will follow the story as it develops.

Brooklyn court restructures approach to criminal docket

This is an interesting piece on recent administrative changes made at the Criminal Term of the Brooklyn Supreme Court to combat backlog and process cases more efficiently.  Efficiency in case processing is often overemphasized, and can be stressed to the detriment of other important factors of court productivity.  But it is still a very visible part of court operations, and accordingly very important.  Courts should be applauded for seeking out internal ways to handle their duties efficiently.