Articles Posted in The Judiciary

Selections from the Brennan Center Fair Courts E-lert May 21, 2010.

Summarized news articles and editorials related to the independence of judges and the courts….:

1. A recent George Mason University study suggests that certain factors such as “support for diversity in the state’s leadership,” the “location of a judgeship,” and the “history of diversity” have a significant impact on the success of efforts aimed at enhancing diversity on the state bench – this, irrespective of the judicial selection mechanisms used in a given state. In a broad survey of state trial court judges of color, the report’s authors observed “that the varying selection mechanisms tend to operate to produce a surprising similarity in the processes, strategies, and experiences of judicial candidates . . . [R]ather than a specific selection mechanism, the judges [interviewed] overwhelmingly point to other factors – such as politics, networking, mentorship, and other resources as determinative of the ability of diverse candidates to become judges.” The American Judicature Society has released another important study on judicial diversity, by Malia Reddick, Michael J. Nelson, and Rachel Paine Caufield. The AJS study explores the relationship between judicial diversity and the institutional, political, and legal environment in which judges are selected. Among other conclusions, the study reported that “Merit selection and pure gubernatorial appointment placed more minorities on high courts than did contested elections, while merit selection placed fewer women on intermediate appellate courts.”

A program presented by the state trial judges during the 2010 Annual Meeting of the American Bar Association in San Francisco at the Marriott Marquis On August 5, from 1:30-4:30 p.m..

Attendees registered for the 2010 ABA Annual Meeting are invited to join the National Conference of State Trial Judges for an in-depth look at search and seizure of digital evidence and the Fourth Amendment implications. This program is designed to provide an understanding of the sources and types of digital evidence encountered in modern litigation, including the introduction of meta data; examine the approaches courts take to address the search and seizure of digital evidence; explore cutting-edge issues such as search and seizure considerations with cell phones, e-mails, virtual worlds, and the like; and discuss judicial management of cyber-crime cases.

The program will end with a final segment titled “Technology Tools for Judges,” that focuses on digital tools available for judges to use while dealing with electronic documents and data, and metadata, now so prevalent in the courts. Participants will learn the components of Knowledge Management systems, how security issues have been treated, and the relative merits of generic search systems vs. legalspecific systems.

Many thanks to Luis Acosta of the Library of Congress for forwarding the following:

Elena Kagan Nominated to the Supreme Court:

On April 9, 2010 Justice John Paul Stevens announced that he would retire after nearly 35 years on the bench of the U.S. Supreme Court. President Obama announced the nomination of Solicitor General Elena Kagan to replace Stevens on May 10, 2010. This is President Obama’s second nomination to the nation’s highest court, following his selection of Justice Sonia Sotomayor in May 2009. Notably the first female Solicitor General and first female dean of Harvard Law School, if Kagan is confirmed, she will also be the fourth woman to serve on the Court.


On behalf of the California Administrative Office of the Courts, we would like to know if there are any courts in the United States that “sell” delinquent court-ordered fines, fees, penalties, and assessments. In specific, we are looking for criteria, and private vendors used, including pricing structure.


From: Fair Courts E-lert, May 7, 2010 Published by the Brennan Center for Justice, New York University School of Law.

1. Show Me Better Courts, a Missouri organization seeking to replace the state’s merit selection of judges with contested judicial elections, claims to have raised $1.5 million “to gather petition signatures” to put the organization’s proposal for a constitutional amendment on the November ballot. In a conference call with reporters, director of the organization James Harris said he expected “another $2 million to $4 million will be spent on the fall campaign if enough signatures are valid.” Missourians for Fair and Impartial Courts, “the group leading opposition to the measure,” and defending the so-called “Missouri Plan” has thus far raised approximately $268,000.

Dave Helling, The Battle Over Missouri’s Courts: A Million Dollar Bash, Kansas City Star, May 3, 2010.

Jonathan Stock who along with others has been working tirelessly to save six threatened law libraries in Connecticut from closure due to financial constraints. Here is Jonathan’s latest report, received as an e-mail on May 6, 2010.:

The Connecticut General Assembly closed down last night. We now know that the bill, its substance merged with the 2011 Budget, passed. You will find herein as an attachment [ see download link below] the latest bulletin from the Judicial Office of External Affairs. We have saved at least three of the six threatened law libraries: Bridgeport, Litchfield, and Hartford. Depending on the Branch’s negotiations with the Department of Public Works, we may also get back the Willimantic Law Library as well as the Willimantic Courthouse.

The good news Jonathan writes about would not have occurred without his continuing, tireless efforts along with those of many other people and organizations such as the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL), Southern New England Law libraries Association (SNELLA).

The New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct has released its 2010 Annual Report which ” recommends [a] greater role for state high court, and public disciplinary proceedings, in conduct cases” The 2010 Report documents the Commission’s work in 2009.

The Commission is the state agency responsible for investigating complaints of misconduct against judges of the state unified court system and, where appropriate, disciplining such judges for violations of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct.

The News Release announcing the release of the 2010 Annual Report is available here.

Jonathan Lippman, Chief Judge of the State of New York


This is my first State of the Judiciary message as the Chief Judge of the State of New York. Months ago, I was expecting to give a live address at Court of Appeals Hall in Albany, similar to those given by some of my predecessor Chief Judges-and next year, maybe I will. But 2010 is very different from earlier years, and this will not be a typical State of the Judiciary message.

Published by: Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law.

The Brennan Center Fair Courts E-lert summarizes news stories and editorials related to the independence of judges and the courts, including material attacking, defending, and concerning the judiciary.


In his provocative Opinion piece Our Fill-in-the-Blank Constitution in the April 13 New York Times, Geoffrey Stone examines this question and more. He emphasizes that contitutional law is not a mechanical exercise in just applying the law, a fact that needs always to be considered in the selection and evaluation of judges and justices.. Here are two excerpts from the article:

“AS the Senate awaits the nomination of a new Supreme Court justice, a frank discussion is needed on the proper role of judges in our constitutional system. For 30 years, conservative commentators have persuaded the public that conservative judges apply the law, whereas liberal judges make up the law….”

“So, how should judges interpret the Constitution? To answer that question, we need to consider why we give courts the power of judicial review – the power to hold laws unconstitutional – in the first place. Although the framers thought democracy to be the best system of government, they recognized that it was imperfect. One flaw that troubled them was the risk that prejudice or intolerance on the part of the majority might threaten the liberties of a minority. As James Madison observed, ( ) in a democratic society “the real power lies in the majority of the community, and the invasion of private rights is chiefly to be apprehended … from acts in which the government is the mere instrument of the major number of the constituents.” It was therefore essential, Madison concluded, for judges, whose life tenure insulates them from the demands of the majority, to serve as the guardians of our liberties and as “an impenetrable bulwark” ( ) against every encroachment upon our most cherished freedoms.”

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