American court dockets are crowded and expensive, yet the need for access to court process is great and the ability to get a fair court hearing is a treasured right of all Americans.
Taking into account all that you have learned in this course, explain your vision of the future of judicial administration. What techniques, technologies, or approaches will judicial systems adopt over the next twenty years to ensure that courts run smoothly, yet remain accessible to the public to serve the ends of both civil and criminal justice?
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Without significant changes in our culture and governance, it is reasonable to believe that civil and criminal caseloads will continue to increase in American state and federal courts in the coming decades. Court personnel face the Herculean task of shepherding thousands of civil and criminal cases through the court system, while honoring the interests of justice and the rights of the litigants involved in those cases. Creative new techniques and technologies will be required to enable American court systems to continue to fairly dispense American justice.
The impact of public opinion pressure on court caseflow and other aspects of the justice system, such as incarceration rates, is becoming better understood. Public demand for mandatory minimum sentences in criminal cases, or tort reform and limits to liability in civil cases, in turn affects court caseloads in many different ways. Judicial administration is turning into a complex area of social-sciences study, involving managerial skills and knowledge of the unique factors that affect court caseflow and how those factors differ from the assessment of workload in other types of governmental agencies or private businesses. When a construction firm has the luxury of too many customers knocking at the door, it can simply turn some away or hire more builders in order to take on the extra work. When too many “customers” come knocking at the courthouse door looking for justice, the court can neither turn them away nor mobilize additional clerks and judges without approval by the legislatures and judicial administrator’s offices that set their budgets. Judges, court clerks, lawyers, and litigants simply need to roll up their sleeves and get creative about effective judicial administration.
Technology is altering the conduct of every social and business transaction in America, and judicial administration is no exception. The federal courts have led the way in instituting electronic filing; many state courts have followed the federal lead. Telecommunications technology, particularly the increasingly easy ability to have multiple people participate in a video conference through applications like Skype, has made it possible to hold court hearings while the parties or witnesses are at remote locations. Many criminal courts are now using video conferencing to arraign defendants, thus saving the cost and time of transporting them from jail to court. Civil courts use video conferencing for many status conferences and other administrative tasks in which physical presence in the courtroom is not necessary.
Judicial administration is the challenging art of making court systems work. It involves balancing the rights of litigants to due process and access to justice with the logistical realities of limited numbers of judges, courtrooms, and hours in the day. There are a growing number of career options in the field of court management, especially for those who can envision creative solutions for the future of judicial administration.