The Important Work We Do

Article excerpt

In tough economic times it is more important than ever to work for a court system in which the public can have trust and confidence. The September-October 2008 Judicature editorial pointed out the likely stresses on the court system in the areas of foreclosures, debt collection, and domestic relations. More litigants may be forced to represent themselves in all kinds of civil matters. Most fundamentally, the courts must be an institution that is fair and transparent and not submerged in public cynicism and mistrust. It needs to be fully functional.

The American Judicature Society has been working towards these goals since its founding nearly 100 years ago. Like most charitable institutions it will be challenged to compete for resources to carry on its work. Here are some specific examples of our current activities that members and friends of AJS can use to explain the important work we do and why we hope for continued, and even enhanced, support in these times.

In Johnson County, Kansas (the Kansas City area), AJS worked with a broad-based coalition of local chambers of commerce, bar associations, and citizens groups, and two other national organizations in opposing a return to partisan judicial elections. Fifty-nine percent of the voters rejected this retrograde ballot initiative. AJS co-hosted an educational forum on merit selection in Overland Park on October 10 that was attended by more than 100 local and state officials, state party leaders, union representatives, clergy, attorneys, business persons, citizen activists, and members of the media.

We are engaged in a two-year project to promote the preservation and expansion of judicial merit selection systems. The AJS Elmo B. Hunter Citizens Center for Judicial Selection is providing nonpartisan public education and outreach, conducting applied research tailored to the needs of individual states, and offering practical, substantive assistance to enhance the merit selection process. These activities include convening public forums around the country on the benefits of merit selection for courts, businesses, and communities, and establishing a national association for the 350 judicial nominating commissions and 3000 commission members nationwide to provide centralized and comprehensive guidance and expertise in support of their important work. …