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Creating the Judicial Branch: The Unfinished Reform

NCJ Number
Robert W. Tobin
Date Published
309 pages
This book documents and analyzes the changes that have occurred in U.S. State courts since the middle of the 20th century, which has involved a continuing struggle to create the judicial branch of State government.
Part I deals with the early history of courts in the United States and the prevalent legalistic approach to judicial independence that ignored the implications of administrative dependence on the other branches of State and local government. Part II discusses the debilitating conditions of State courts in the early part of the 20th century, which sparked demands for reform. The State trial courts lacked the elementary rudiments of a credible judicial system: independence, accountability, integrity, management, and quality. These conditions were largely due to politics in judicial selection, localism run amok, lawyer domination of court processes, and a lack of management orientation among judges. Part III is the story of the reform movement of the late 20th century. This movement had two goals: upgrading the professionalism of the State judiciary and unifying State trial court systems. Part IV assesses the early reform agenda and describes the emerging reform agenda. The new reform issues will change the way courts deal with the public and affect the culture of the judiciary and the legal system. Symbolic of these issues is the responsibility of the judiciary to arrest and reverse the declining professionalism of the legal profession. The adversarial process is in trouble, because it is perceived as lacking both integrity and respect for persons. The system stands accused of producing a shoddy form of justice that is divorced from the truth, demeaning to those who participate in the process, and a denial of access to many who might invoke the aid of the legal system. The current system is traumatic for participants, financially costly, lengthy, and unreliable as a means of achieving justice. The underlying premises of the adversarial system are due for re-examination. Chapter footnotes and a subject index


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