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Securing the Future for America's State Courts

NCJ Number
Judicature Volume: 73 Issue: 6 Dated: (April-May 1990) Pages: 296-306
F M Zweig; S S Thurston; S D Turpin; D C Judge; C C Jernigan; D Melnick; C A Dougherty
Date Published
11 pages
In preparation for the 1990 conference of the State Justice Institute and the American Judicature Society, judicial experts were asked to identify major developments and trends affecting State courts and to recommend measures the courts should take to respond to the challenges of the 21st century.
The expert group comprised 40 judges, court administrators, legal scholars, writers, and prominent legal practitioners. These individuals were asked to predict the impact of social and court-related trends on State courts and to rank these trends so that statistical patterns could be established. An overriding consensus was that the quality of justice in the United States is at risk when social and economic conditions are changing rapidly. At the same time, public expectations of State courts have significantly increased. Preoccupation with drug and criminal case overloads dulled optimism about the courts' ability to plan their futures. The drug problem was the societal trend receiving the highest ranking in terms of present and future court impact. Most experts agreed that civil matters seem destined to be displaced by the criminal calendar's speedy trial requirements. At the same time that comingling family and poverty problems were assigned a high rank in shaping the courts' futures, experts downplayed macroeconomic cycles and factors as important influences. Ranked court-related trends revealed a concern that judges' job pressures increasingly include statistical and clerical duties and the need to consider the impact of technological modernization in the court system. Recommended solutions to remedy problems blocking State courts' future prospects are offered. 10 footnotes, 8 tables.