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Address by the Honorable James K. Stewart, Director, National Institute of Justice Before the Covington and Burling Law Partners' Luncheon

NCJ Number
J K Stewart
Date Published
8 pages
The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) Director proposes that lawyers volunteer their time and expertise to assist courts in hearing and settling cases.
The courts are overstressed due to the volume and complexity of cases, although speedy trial laws, court-imposed time standards, and court-ordered arbitration have had some impact on the caseload backlog. The drug epidemic further complicates the overburdened court system; in large urban courts particularly, drugs are involved in most cases. Some jurisdictions are setting up special drug courts and expediting the processing of drug cases. Research and programs of the NIJ demonstrate the positive effect of using volunteer lawyers as judges and in other judicial capacities. Benefits include an increase in dispositions, improved relations between the bar and the bench, better attorney understanding of judicial duties and problems, and insights that make lawyers more effective advocates. The volunteer lawyer concept can be strengthened by appropriate training on the role of judges and on judicial conduct and procedures. About half of the States already permit, by statute, programs using lawyers as judges with full authority. Volunteer lawyer programs in Arizona, Oregon, Connecticut, Minnesota, and Washington are noted.