NCSC in the news

United States & Barbados Partner To Improve Court System Efficiency

The United States government,  in collaboration with the Barbados judiciary, has announced the launch of a pilot Court Case Management System. Developed and implemented by the National Center for State Courts, this innovative system marks a significant step forward in modernizing Barbados' judicial administration and enhancing regional security.  The electronic case management system in the Magistrates Courts in Barbados will align Barbados with international and regional best practices and increase the ability of its courts to meet future challenges.

Judicial Leaders Praise Federal Bill to Protect State Judges

National court leaders, including the National Center for State Courts, praised the introduction of new legislation in the United States Congress designed to help state courts address escalating threats of violence against judges, court staff, and the public. The legislation comes on the heels of a surge in both threats and actual acts of violence against judges across America.

Rapid Response Team Helps State Courts Navigate AI

A team of state court administrators and chief justices, supported by the National Center for State Courts, is developing resources to help courts address AI by deciding their own approaches. "It seems like every couple of weeks there's a new story about an attorney or even a self-represented litigant using one of these technologies, and the information is not always credible or even accurate," said Shay Cleary, a managing director at the National Center for State Courts.

How State Courts Are Improving Virtual  Hearings

State courts are improving virtual hearings by leveraging new technology, redesigning courtroom, offering technical training to staff and improving case practices through the National Center for State Courts' Hybrid Hearings Improvement Initiative. Through the initiative, NCSC connected courts with technology partners and consultants to help them improve their hybrid hearings. "We intentionally selected a diverse group of courts to participate in the project to help us understand a broader range of challenges and solutions," said Lindsay Hafford, NCSC project director and principal court management consultant.

Where did all the small claims court cases go?

As concerns mount about lower-income people being shut out of the civil justice system because they can't afford a lawyer, such longstanding "people's courts" offer quick, simplified proceedings without all the formal trappings of litigation. But small claims caseloads in recent years have been dropping, in some instances dramatically. Between 2018 and 2022, small claims court cases nationwide fell 32%, according to Danielle Hirsch, a managing director in the Court Consulting division at the National Center for State Courts. In part, the pandemic is to blame, she said, when civil filings dipped across the board.

Jury duty reform discussed with Pa. lawmakers

Pennsylvania has among the lowest juror compensation rates. In 1980, lawmakers raised daily compensation to $25 for jurors beyond the third day of service. Paula Hannaford-Agor, director of the National Center for State Courts' Center for Jury Studies,  cited increasing threats from social and economic barriers that prevent broader representation of juries. "Even at the maximum amount most people would lose $100 or more out of pocket for every day that they served," Hannaford-Agor said.

New Summits Aim to Strengthen Cybersecurity for U.S. Courts

While all state and local governments wrestle with cyber challenges, the judicial branch faces some specific obstacles.  The National Center for State Courts and Joint Technology Committee - in partnership with the Center for Internet Security and fueled by a State Justice Institute grant - are launching summits across the country to help courts prepare for and recover from cyber disasters. "The goal is they will be able to leave that summit after this education with essentially a template, relationships and the ability to more quickly respond," said NCSC Managing Director Shay Cleary.

Houston Evictions Are Skyrocketing. One Court Is Testing a Solution.

Last year, one in every ten Harris County renters faced losing their home. A new pilot program aims to slow down the process and connect tenants with resources. "We really want to treat a trial before a judge as the last resort, when people have had every other opportunity to try to resolve their dispute without moving forward to trial and adversarial litigation," says Samira Nazem, a lawyer who directs the National Center for State Courts' Eviction Diversion Initiative.

'Shell-shocked' Courts Review Security as Threats Increase

Law enforcement and court administrators are taking a hard look at their security after a gunman shot at the Colorado Supreme Court, a Nevada judge was attacked on the bench, and a nationwide string of bomb threats shuttered judicial buildings across the country all in the space of a week.  "I think many in the court community are a little shell-shocked by what they are seeing," said Nathan Hall, a consultant for the National Center for State Courts specializing in courthouse planning and security. "Court security is not a new concern for most courts, but the recent spate of incidents and threats are heightening the sense of vulnerability."

AI Rapid Response Team Will Help State Courts Adapt

The Conference of Chief Justices and Conference of State Court Administrators have established a new rapid response team to examine how artificial intelligence may affect the courts and suggest best practices for dealing with those effects. The team, which will be supported by National Center for State Courts staff, will evaluate the orders and rules it collects to explore how courts around the country are dealing with the use of AI tools by attorneys and self-represented litigants to create legal pleadings. "AI has the potential to transform a lot of industries, and the courts are no different,” said NCSC Managing Director Shay Cleary. The team - which is co-chaired by District of Columbia Court of Appeals Chief Judge Anna Blackburne-Rigsby and Justin Forkner, the chief administrative officer of the Indiana Supreme Court -- hopes to issue template rules and guidelines for courts to adopt within the next six months.

Evictions in Cook County have caught up to pre-pandemic levels. The lack of affordable housing and rising costs are to blame, experts say

Significant rent increases in recent years are boosting eviction levels as many tenants are unable to pay higher monthly rents. Property owners say rent increases are unavoidable because of their own rising costs.  Samira Nazem - who leads the eviction diversion initiative at the National Center for State Courts - works with 22 courts across the country to model different eviction diversion methods. Nazem said the initiative's goal is not only to prevent evictions, but also to get more tenants to engage in the court process, more time to move out and fewer judgments from the court demanding payment.

A Mountain To Climb: The Inaccessibility of Rural Courts

Long distances, geography, weather and even wildlife can make traveling to the local courthouse difficult for residents of rural communities, hampering access to the legal system, according to attorneys. Nathan Hall, an architect and court management consultant at the National Center for State Courts, elaborates on some of these challenges along with significant increases in the cost of courthouse construction.

Judicial task force will take deep look at legal ed, bar admissions

A new group comprised of nine state supreme court chief justices and three state court administrators will make recommendations to state supreme courts regarding legal education, the bar admissions process and the declining number of attorneys dedicated to public-interest law.  New Hampshire Chief Justice Gordon J. MacDonald and Danielle Hirsch, a managing director in the National Center for State Courts Court Consulting division, discussed several aspects of legal education that will be examined by the Committee on Legal Education and Admissions Reform.