AJS-Standing Ready to Help
Webster, Peter D., Judicature
I begin this, my first President's Report, with a special "Thank You" to my predecessor, Bill Johnston. Bill has been indefatigable in his work on behalf of AJS for many years but, during the last year, the amount of time Bill devoted to the work of AJS was truly amazing. I know because, on a regular basis, Bill, Executive Director Seth Andersen and I would be communicating by e-mail at nine or ten o'clock at night. So, the bad news is that Bill is no longer President, but the good news is that 1 know we can continue to count on him to do whatever it takes (regardless of the amount of time and effort required) to make this organization a better one. Thanks, Bill!
Like Bill, I intend to use the Presidency as a "bully pulpit" to speak about the importance to our society of fair and impartial courts, and about the role AJS plays in promoting and protecting the integrity of our justice system. It appears the coming year will afford an especially large number of opportunities to do so.
Earlier this year, legislative pro* posais in several states forced courts into a defensive posture and, as we are all too well aware, courts are not well equipped to defend themselves. Declining revenues in most states have forced widespread spending cuts. No one would dispute that courts must hear their fair share of necessary spending reductions, but problems arise when one attempts to define what, precisely, "fair" means in this context. The matter becomes even more complicated when one adds to die equation the fact that, when the economy turns downward, the work of courts increases, fed largely by more criminal filings and cases tied to financial misfortune, such as foreclosures. Unfortunately, 2012 does not appear to offer a promise of relief from the financial troubles that have plagued the economy in recent years.
This legislative year just past also saw proposals in several states to change the method by which some or all judges are selected. This appears to have been particularly true in states having some type of "merit selection" system, a method long-advocated by AJS. …