Letter from the Editor-in-Chief

Article excerpt

I am pleased to present issue 30:1, the first issue of 2009. As we approach the end of the first decade of the twenty-first century, the importance of the Justice System Journal and its ability to speak to multiple audiences has never been more apparent. With every state confronting budgetary problems and courts and court personnel not immune from the budget ax, it is more important than ever to have empirical, objective, yet accessible research from scholars and court administrators that explain and help all to understand both the workings of courts and court management and how external political decisions can constrain and determine judicial and management choices.

We start with three articles that examine the three levels of the federal judicial system. Each article challenges our assumptions of policy preference and judicial choice. First, we have an examination by Professors Timothy Hagle and Harold Spaeth of agenda setting and case selection by the United States Supreme Court. The surprising finding is that judicial policy preference does not matter much to the agenda of the Supreme Court. Instead, legal and perhaps strategic factors predominate. Professor Robert Hume continues our examination of the federal courts, but this time examining the federal appellate courts. Hume shows that appellate court judges tailor their opinions to different audiences and use different legal groundings depending upon if they depart from higher court precedent or other judges in other circuits. Finally, Professor Lydia Tiede analyzes federal district court judges and their application of United States Sentencing Guidelines. Professor Tiede finds that the use of the guidelines does constrain sentence variation among the circuits, but that the use of the guidelines by district court judges varies significantly across circuits.

Our next set of articles examines state courts, and each author offers suggestions for efficiency and better performance even within an age of constricted budgets. Don Farole presents a nationwide survey of over 1,000 trial court judges concerning the potential to apply specialized "problem-solving court" practices more broadly in conventional court settings. …