Archive for the 'Public Education' Category
The University of Chicago Law School was visited by five judges this past year as part of the school’s new Distinguished Visiting Jurists program.
According to the Law School Office of Communications, the program is designed to give students an inside view of the judiciary and the role judges play.
The five visiting judges each gave a lunch talk about their experiences on the bench.
“Judges reinforce, supplement, and challenge what students get in the classroom, and the judges get to speak to some of the best soon-to-be lawyers in the country. We’ve learned a great deal from the judges this year, and we hope they have learned from us as well,” said Professor Lior Strahilevitz, who organized the speaker series.
Judge Thomas L. Ambro of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge Thomas B. Griffith of the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge Gary Feinerman of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Judge Reena Raggi of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals and Judge Robert Sack of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals all spoke during the Sidebar: Conversations with the Bench workshop.
The U.S. Supreme Court has a “serious failure to communicate,” law professor Erwin Chemerinsky says. But he doesn’t stop there. Ever the teacher, Chemerinsky lays out ways the court could improve its communications in a recent law review article.
An ABA Journal article recaps the law review piece by Chemerinsky, dean of the law school at the University of California at Irvine.
Among his suggestions: That the court explain briefly its reasoning when it denies a case for review; that it include a short “plain English” explanation of each decision, that does not have legal precedential weight; that it permit cameras in the courtroom; that it not release as many as five or six rulings in the same day; and that it give advance notice by a day of what decisions will be issued; and that it set word and page limits on opinions.
“For better or worse, the Supreme Court gets the last word on so many of the issues that are among the most important and controversial in American society,” Chemerinsky wrote in the BYU Law Review. “Yet most people have far less sense of the court than other institutions of American government. In part, this is because of the court’s serious failure to communicate.”
At West High School in Iowa this week, state Supreme Court Justice David Wiggins spoke on how the high court has raised its public profile since he joined the bench a decade ago.
According to the Iowa City Press-Citizen, Wiggins declined to speak on last year’s retention vote when he was the lone justice on the ballot.
“I don’t talk about that. It’s done and done. I didn’t campaign before and I’m not campaigning now. People voted the way they did and that’s how it turned out,” Wiggins said.
Wiggins did not speak much about the constitutional case on marriage for same-sex couples that led to a challenge from conservative groups against his being retained. Instead, he focused on the role the courts play in upholding the rights of all Iowans.
Famed New York Times Supreme Court reporter Anthony Lewis passed away this Monday at his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts at age 85, reports the New York Times.
Lewis was well known for his coverage of the Supreme Court, and won a second Pulitzer prize in 1963 for his reporting, the article says.
Ronald K.L. Collins, a University of Washington scholar, said Lewis “had an incredible talent in making the law not only intelligible but also in making it compelling.” Read more
Justice at Stake proudly announced that Mark I. Harrison, its board chairman, will be honored by the American Bar Association this week for making a significant, positive impact on public understanding of the role of the judiciary in a democratic society.
On Friday, Harrison will be presented the 2013 Burnham “Hod” Greeley Award of the ABA Judicial Division Lawyers Conference when the bar group holds its midyear meeting in Dallas.
“Mark Harrison has brought passion to outreach efforts aimed at enhancing public awareness of the need for a fair and impartial judiciary,” said JAS Executive Director Bert Brandenburg in a press release. “At Justice at Stake, we are honored and fortunate to work with him.”
Harrison is a member of the law firm Osborn Maledon PA in Phoenix, Arizona. He was nominated for the recognition by Brandenburg and Superior Court Judge Christopher T. Whitten of Maricopa County, Arizona.
Harrison “has promoted the need for… a fair and independent judiciary throughout Arizona and the United States, often at great personal cost,” Judge Whitten wrote in the nomination letter.
The Associated Press picture with a New York Times article about Justice Sonia Sotomayor is not your usual Supreme Court photo: At a book-reading event, the judge smiles while giving a bear hug to a 7-year-old girl in the audience. People surrounding the pair watch approvingly.
Justice Sotomayor is traveling widely to read and sign copies of her memoir, “My Beloved World,” in a way that the Times says suggests she “wants to play a larger and more personal role in public than her colleagues.”
Her readings “have the air of celebratory happenings, attended by entire families, people who left work early to line up for tickets and acolytes who quote her recent interviews from memory,” reporter Jodi Kantor writes. Her book has arrived at Number One New York Times best-seller list for hardcover nonfiction. Other justices have written memoirs, sold them successfully and attracted crowds, but they aren’t quite like Justice Sotomayor.
Talking to the Times at a Chicago event, she emphasized the importance of serving as a role model, and accorded it greater meaning than her jurisprudence.
The educational website iCivics launched a new online game called We the Jury, intended to engage the public and teach about jury duty in a fun way.
iCivics Executive Director Gene Koo says that the group’s “mission has always been to make civics engaging, educational, and relevant. We the Jury highlights for young people one of the most important duties of citizenship, one that is essential if our democracy is to continue to thrive.”
In the game, players choose between two different civil trial issues, analyze evidence in a case, listen to testimony, and try to persuade their fellow jurors the website’s release says. Teachers can find supporting materials such as related lesson plans.
“Educating our students about this constitutional right is essential to ensuring that future generations understand and protect this fundamental right,” said President of the American College of Trial Lawyers, Chilton Davis Varner.
We the Jury was funded by the Foundation of the American Board of Trial Advocates and the Foundation of the American College of Trial Lawyers. The American Board of Trial Advocates is a Justice at Stake partner group.
What should voters do when faced with a long list of little-known judicial candidates to consider on Election Day?
The Chicago Appleseed Fund for Justice, a nonprofit JAS partner group, suggests voters do some homework in advance, in order to ensure a quality judiciary. To help Illinois citizens, the group’s VoteForJudges.org website provides nonpartisan recommendations on judicial candidates from area bar organizations.
The voter education efforts of Chicago Appleseed were spotlighted in a Chicago Daily Herald article, entitled “Judge ratings make daunting task easier for voters.” An Illinois Watchdog article, meanwhile, quoted Justice at Stake spokeswoman Eeva Moore about the importance of voters casting a ballot in judicial contests.
“The big challenge is that people have the question, Does this relate to their daily lives in any immediate sense,” she said. “However, the courts impact people’s lives on a daily basis. What’s happened is you have a vacuum of people not voting as much or dropping off when they reach the judicial section of the ballot. And in many states we see special interests step in to fill that void.”
While voters often are not well informed about judicial candidates, they will have a valuable tool this fall in a handful of states where judicial performance evaluations (JPEs) are provided.
Justice at Stake and two of its partner groups, the American Judicature Society and the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System, highlighted the evaluation programs by court users in a press release on Tuesday.
According to the groups, voters in some states will be able to take advantage of broad-based and objective evaluations of incumbent judges’ work on the bench, and, in one state, the judicial potential of challengers. These states include Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, New Mexico, and Utah; North Carolina is the state that has evaluations of judges and challengers.
“To be fair and impartial, judges must be protected from special interest and partisan influence while remaining accountable to the law and constitution,” said Bert Brandenburg, JAS executive director. “By focusing on competence instead of ideology, JPE’s enable the public to choose fair, high quality judges.”
“Surveys and exit polling demonstrate that voters use JPE results to make better-informed decision on judges standing for retention,” said AJS Executive Director Seth S. Andersen.
Public polling results “demonstrate that voters need more information to make informed decisions about the judges appearing on their ballots,” said Malia Reddick, director of the IAALS Quality Judges Initiative. “Judicial performance evaluation programs fill this void.”
To learn more about how JPE programs, see Justice at Stake’s issues page on the topic.
Stars from the popular “West Wing” TV drama got back together to make an unusual political ad for a Michigan Supreme Court candidate, and the web video does double duty as a public service announcement about the importance of voting in nonpartisan judicial elections.
The ad promoting the candidacy of Bridget Mary McCormack (see Gavel Grab) was suggested by her sister, Mary McCormack, who played the role of Deputy National Security Adviser Kate Harper in the the show’s last three seasons, according to a MLive.com article. Mary McCormack appears in the video.
The actress floated the idea after her court candidate sister told her that a drop-off in voter participation for judicial candidates posed her toughest problem. The numbers of citizens who cast a vote for president, and then fail to vote for the Michigan Supreme Court, can vary from nearly 25 percent to almost 39 percent.
Enter Martin Sheen, Allison Janney and other “West Wing” celebrities for the fast-paced ad that doubles as a PSA. The cast has made other PSAs, but this one is “probably the most helpful,” David Hagland wrote in a Slate blog post entitled, “The West Wing is Still Teaching People About Democracy.” Fifteen states hold nonpartisan state supreme court elections.