Monday, July 20, 2009

Strategic Trends

I am working on an article about strategic issues facing the courts of Texas. Here is the introduction as it now stands.

Strategic thinkers in the Judicial Branch of Texas should begin with a review of the National Center for State Courts latest “Future Trends in State Courts” report, which at this time is the 2008, 20th Anniversary Edition.[i] Major topics identified there include jury management, caseflow management, judicial selection, judicial compensation, state budgets, technology, access to justice, and the emergence of the problem-solving court paradigm. The ten trend topics identified in the 2006 edition,[ii] still vital and valid, are:
1. Emergency Preparedness in the State Courts
2. The Impact of Technology
3. Cultural Diversity: The Use of Court Interpreters
4. The Impact of an Aging Population
5. Privacy and Public Access to Court Records
6. Judicial Independence and Selection
7. State Courts and Budget Challenges
8. Problem-Solving Courts
9. Access to Justice: The Self-Represented Litigant
10. Measuring Court Performance
But the main forces at work affecting the lives of judges and their state court systems, may be conceptualized into three categories:
-Demographics, such as population growth and aging;
-Private Decisions, such as private dispute resolution away from the courts, and self-help when in the courts; and
-Policy Decisions too numerous to summarize, with instances identified in the “Trends” series and in this article.
The convergence of the first two forces in the years to come (and to some extent policy decisions such as tort reform) suggests a continued migration away from resolving civil disputes, and toward an increasing role for the state courts as gatekeepers for people and families in crisis in the context of criminal, juvenile, child abuse/neglect, child support, probate, mental health and divorce cases.

[i] Available at:
[ii] Available at

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