The "State of the Society" and Our Thanks to Dave Richert
Johnston, William D., Judicature
In this President's Report, I share some thoughts on the "state of the American Judicature Society." I also offer our thanks to long-time Judicature Editor Dave Richert on the eve of his retirement.
State of the American Judicature Society
I am pleased to report that AJS, as it nears its 100th anniversary (in 2013), is strong and getting stronger. The Society continues to be a national, non-partisan membership organization of judges, lawyers, and non-lawyer citizens committed to ensuring a fair system of justice throughout our country.
AJS focuses on five core areas: judicial selection, judicial ethics, the jury system, the criminal justice system, and public education about the role of courts and judges (and, most broadly, about access to justice).
In the area of jitdicial selection, the Society filed an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief defending Alaska's judicial merit selection system. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals relied heavily on that brief in its decision upholding the constitutionality of the system. In addition, based upon information provided by AJS, judicial nominating commissions were created in West Virginia and North Carolina to advise those states' governors regarding appointments to fill interim vacancies. The Wall Street Journal published my letter to the editor defending the independence and integrity of the judiciary in die aftermath of Iowa's judicial retention elections last November.
AJS staff members chaired and served on committees that created key sections of a new, five-year strategic plan for die Justice at Stake Campaign, a collaboration of more than 50 organizations nationwide that promote fair, impartial, and independent courts. AJS issued an "Action Alert" to its members and allies nationwide regarding a host of bills in state legislatures that would weaken or eliminate long-standing judicial merit selection systems. In response to the alert, AJS members contacted legislators, wrote letters to the editor and op-ed pieces, and in other ways spoke out publicly in support of merit selection systems.
AJS provided legislative testimony in Iowa that helped to defeat proposals to weaken or eliminate that state's merit system, and AJS leaders in Florida successfully spearheaded efforts there to defeat legislation that would have severely damaged the independence and integrity of the state's court system. Most recently, the Washington Post published a letter from AJS Executive Director Seth Andersen and Justice at Stake Executive Director Bert Brandenburg responding to an op-ed that had advocated for judicial elections.
In the area of judicial ethics, AJS, in partnership with West LegalEdcenter, launched a new series of online continuing legal education programs focusing primarily on judicial conduct and ethics issues. In addition, in 2010 alone, AJS' judicial etìics guru, Cindy Gray, as Director of the AJS Center for Judicial Ethics, conducted training programs for state and federal judges in 10 states and the Ninth Circuit. She also provided expert assistance in response to more than 350 requests from judges, judicial conduct commissions, ethics advisory committees, journalists and others nationwide. Her weekly updates to Center for Judicial Ethics subscribers provide analysis of breaking issues not available from any other source. And AJS' quarterly Judicial Conduct Reporter provides to its subscribers timely and incisive analysis of critically important judicial ethics issues.
In October 2011, AJS, for the 22nd time, will sponsor the National College on Judicial Conduct and Ethics. As before, the two-day conference will provide more than 200 attendees with the latest information on judicial conduct and ethics. For the first time, sessions will be recorded and offered as "ondemand" ethics CLE through die West LegalEdcenter.
In the area of the jury system, AJS, in partnership with scholars at the University of California-Riverside, is conducting a pilot program to improve citizen response to jury summonses. …