What is the State Justice Institute and its Responsibilities and Authority?
The State Justice Institute is a non-profit corporation governed by an 11 member board appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. The President must appoint six State court judges, one State court administrator, and four members of the public which no more than two can be of the same political party. The institute was established by Federal law in 1984 to award grants to improve the quality of justice in State Courts, facilitate better coordination between State and Federal Courts, and other innovative, efficient solutions to common issues faced by all courts.
This is a unique organization and it makes sense to provide some connection between Federal and State Courts. The mission as stated above is an important one to aid in providing consistency for issues common to both court systems. The manner in which this institute carries out its mission is also unique to maximize the impact of funding. There are five ways this institute carries out its mission and they are noted below:
Placing practical products in the hands of the judges and court staff who can most benefit from them.
Maintaining information clearinghouses to assure that effective new judicial approaches in one State are quickly and economically shared with other courts nationwide.
Establishing national resource centers where judges and court staff obtain expert guidance, test new technologies, and learn from each other.
Convening national, regional, and in-State educational programs to speed the transfer of solutions to issues shared by courts across the nation and
Delivering national technical assistance targeted at specific justifications’ specific problems.
One of the objectives of this institute is to help provide information and the tools to have some consistency in state court decisions whatever the issue. Consistency is a desirable trait for anything but it is something which may not always be achieved within state courts systems. Some of the consistency aspects of this institute are to communicate best practices and provide products in the hands of judges who can most benefit from them. Consistency in state court decisions is an admirable objective but state courts systems do not always agree with the same response for the same situation.
The five ways this institute carries out its mission or purpose as described above are great objectives and defined purpose to enhance the state court systems. It must be remembered that while sometimes there are common issues across state court systems the individual state response to them are not always the same. It is a good idea to learn from each state court system on how they address common issues. This institute provides that learning opportunity and I applaud the efforts it makes. It must be remembered that making a connection between Federal courts and state courts that the laws they are enforcing are different. While Federal law with regards to issues takes precedent over state laws there are many issues with which state courts are involved where no defined punishment is in place or the punishment is left up to individual judges.
Judges have distinct authority to enforce the laws of their individual state and consistency may sometimes have problems based on interpretation of the law and individual situations in each case before them. Our court system both Federal and State have defined processes. This institute helps to connect these two processes with opportunity for improvement. Institutes like this one are good for society when they bring opportunity for understanding between organizations and opportunity for improving processes. Consistency between Federal courts and State courts may not be achieved 100% but any consistency is better than none. Many times there are disconnects between Federal and State organizations and disconnects hurts the process especially when opinions differ on issues. We need organizations or institutes such as this one who bring opportunity for understanding rather than dictating actions to be taken.