What's AJS Done Lately?

By Webster, Peter D. | Judicature, May/June 2012 | Go to article overview

What's AJS Done Lately?


Webster, Peter D., Judicature


AJS is the oldest independent, nonpartisan membership organization in America working to protect the integrity of our justice system. For nearly one hundred years, A]S has based its policies and recommendations on hard empirical research, rather than ideological predispositions, asking difficult questions and reporting the findings in a neutral, scholarly manner. This has been true even when the findings have not supported the organization's long-held policy preferences. AJS is constantly reexamining its positions based on new empirical data and, based on that new data, challenging conventional wisdom.

The most recent example is the survey research on judicial nominating commissions, which is the subject of this issue's editorial. That research makes a significant contribution to the body of knowledge about how merit systems actually work based on responses from those who are most familiar with the topic-the nominating commissioners themselves. Building on previous surveys and related research conducted during the past four decades, the AJS report, "Inside Merit Selection," documents many positive aspects of the work of nominating commissions that will reassure proponents of merit systems.

For example, commissioners reported high levels of collegiality and mutual respect, low levels of partisanship in deliberations, and an increasing focus on the need for transparent and well-articulated evaluative criteria. Yet the survey results also highlight areas where there is room for improvement, including fostering greater diversity on the bench and ensuring that applicants undergo more thorough investigative procedures and interviews. AjS will continue to urge improvements to existing merit systems suggested by these important survey results, and will update training and orientation programs and materials for nominating commissioners accordingly. …

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