Gavel Grab

Archive for the 'Public Education' Category

Poll: 10% of College Grads Think ‘Judge Judy’ is on Supreme Court

judge_judy_320wAccording to CNN, a poll conducted by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni reveals that nearly 10 percent of college graduates surveyed believe that Judith Sheindlin, aka “Judge Judy,” serves on the Supreme Court.

Judith Sheindlin is an American lawyer who rose to prominence on the court show “Judge Judy,” which features her handling small disputes. She has never served as a member of the U.S. Supreme Court.

The poll, released this month, is said to show an alarming level of ignorance of America’s history and heritage. The respondents’ lack of knowledge of the country’s judicial system also applied to their answers on the constitution and federal government.

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Florida Launches Plan for Better Public Understanding of Courts

Florida-Supreme-Court-Seal-300At a time judges in Florida are facing a proposal in the legislature for judicial term limits, it’s “fortuitous” timing that the state’s highest court has approved a five-year plan for enhancing public understanding of how the courts work, a columnist writes.

In The Tallahassee Democrat, Bill Cotterell says the plan is titled “Delivering the Message,” and it incorporates “suggestions from judges, reporters and editors, court public information officers and other staff across the state.”

Cotterell says the goal of “enhancing public trust and confidence” in the courts can be challenging when this particular branch of government, in order to do its job, sometimes must dissatisfy the customer. “Governors and legislators can do things they know are unconstitutional, but politically popular. Judges often have to do just the opposite, upholding the rule of law when we’d really like to just whack somebody,” he explains. Read more

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Colorado Judiciary Turns to Twitter

Colorado’s judiciary is turning to social media — specifically, Twitter accounts — to help educate the public.

The state’s Judicial Branch has announced that the state Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals, and the Office of the State Court Administrator will use Twitter to communicate breaking news, insights about the work of the courts, and ongoing community education initiatives.

“Social media platforms such as Twitter have proven to be powerful and useful communication tools with deep reach to broad audiences,” Colorado Chief Justice Nancy Rice said.  “I believe that Twitter will enhance our outreach and communication efforts as we pursue our mission to educate Coloradans about the roles, responsibilities and actions of our Courts.”

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New Code Encourages MA Judges to Engage With the Public

Massachusetts_quarter,_reverse_side,_2000A new code of conduct for Massachusetts judges, adopted by the state Supreme Judicial Court, encourages jurists to engage with the public and offers specific guidelines and limits.

“We don’t want our judges to be forced to isolate themselves so much from the real world that they lose touch with the rest of society,” Lisa Goodheart, an attorney who sat on the committee that drafted the code, told The Boston Globe.  “It’s hard for the public to have confidence in the judiciary and faith in the rule of law unless they have an understanding of it.”

Under the code, judges would not be permitted to address a fund-raiser, but they are permitted to speak at such events as bar association luncheons.

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We Are ‘Helping Other Iowans Solve Disputes,” IA Chief Justice Says

cady1-300x224Chief Justice Mark Cady of the Iowa Supreme Court sat down for an interview with the Newton Daily News, in advance of the court’s hearing arguments at the local high school. The court has held sessions around the state to inform the public about the judiciary and its workings, Cady said:

“We are Iowans helping other Iowans solve disputes. A lot of questions are addressed are, how is it that you relate to us? Coming out into the communities and having our court hearings in their communities help explain how we function in everyone’s lives.”

Cady will stand for retention (up-or-down) election next year. He was the author of a court opinion in 2009  that found it unconstitutional to deny civil marriage to same-sex couples. The following year, three Iowa justices were removed by voters in a retention election. Cady was Read more

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Opinion: ‘Crusade’ by Judges Needed to Rebuild Waning Trust

At a time of all-time low public trust in our courts, it’s imperative that judges from the Supreme Court in Washington to courthouses across America work to build trust, contends a past president of the American Judges Association.

“The ability of courts to be a strong voice in our democracy is dependent upon the trust the people have in the ability of judges to make fair decisions,” explains Hennepin County (Minnesota) District Judge Kevin Burke in a Minneapolis Star Tribune commentary.

Burke writes that “Part of the essence of an effective judiciary is respect for differing opinions on critical issues,” and he suggests it didn’t help when Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia used derisive language about the court when it found a right to marry for same-sex couples. He also says there is danger in the expenditure during the upcoming elections of billions of dollars for images that paint “impending apocalypse that will erode trust in government even more dramatically.” Read more

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N.C. Journalist Worries About Eroding Trust in Fair Courts

gavel_cash_20121102165220_320_240Appointed to a new commission aiming to improve North Carolina’s judicial system, a journalist says he hopes that its work will help build public trust in the independence and impartiality of our courts.

Doug Clark of the Greensboro News & Record says in a column that he’s especially concerned about trust in the state courts and in helping educate the public to better understand how they work:

“In recent court races, we’ve seen outside groups with partisan interests spend millions of dollars to promote or attack judicial candidates. Our legislature ended public funding for appellate campaigns, which had been successfully adopted after the 1996 report and relieved candidates of having to raise so much money. Now lawmakers aim to return partisan labels to the ballot for some judicial races. These aren’t steps that instill public trust in the impartiality of our justice system.

“I’m also concerned about a lack of transparency and access to information in the justice system, as well as the public’s lack of understanding about the work of judges and the courts.”

Read more

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Reform Aimed to Inform More Ohio Voters About Judicial Races

Ohio_quarter,_reverse_side,_2002Reforms led by Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor are aimed at raising the profile of judicial elections and helping voters be more informed about them, a Columbus Dispatch editorial says.

Part of the effort to get more voters to participate in judicial elections will be a website, Judicial Votes Count, to be launched soon. It will have biographical information about candidates, their responses to a standard questionnaire and lists of candidates’ endorsements.

While Justice O’Connor has spoken of interest by some in the legal community in a switch to merit selection of judges, she believes that is unlikely to be adopted given public opinion polling in the state, according to the editorial.

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On Politics and On Courts, Texas Judge Finds Twitter Useful

Willett3The Texas Tweeter Laureate is … a judge. Yes, you read that correctly. And in an intriguing Washington Times op-ed, Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett shows flashes of the humor and succinctness that are part of his social media effort to demystify our courts:

  • “People know far more about American Idol judges than judges.”
  • “I’m probably the most avid social-media judge in America—which is like being the tallest Munchkin in Oz. It’s a bar so low it’s subterranean. But apparently I’m part of the Twitterati (think Illuminati, but with gavels).”
  • “People are genuinely amazed that a nerdy judge can be engaging, and believe me, my geekery is on an uber-elite level. But it’s rare for a Supreme Court Justice to step out from behind the bench and demystify things.”
  • “If you’re a Texas Supreme Court Justice hopscotching across 254 counties, trying to tattoo your name onto the noggins of millions of voters, you must find creative ways to raise visibility and build awareness. Twitter, Facebook, etc. are low-cost but high-yield ways to leverage the support of key influencers and opinion leaders. Bottom line: It’s political malpractice not to engage people smartly via social media.”
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Construction Starts Soon on Wyoming Judicial Learning Center

IMG_1148Construction of an interactive judicial learning center, where visitors will be able to learn about the workings of the state’s court system, will begin next month in the Wyoming Supreme Court building in Cheyenne.

According to the Center’s website, planned exhibits include the following: Judicial Milestones; Hear From a Judge;  Wyoming (courts) Map; iCivics Learning Stations; and Rule of Law Theatre. ICivics is a civics education program co-founded by retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, Justice at Stake’s first Honorary Chair.

A Casper Star-Tribune article said the legislature appropriated $280,000 for the project with an understanding matching funds would come from other sources. The facility was inspired by the Colorado Judicial Learning Center.

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