Gavel Grab

New Effort Will Help Educate Citizens, Legislators About AR Courts

In his annual state of the judiciary speech, Arkansas Chief Justice Jim Hannah unveiled a new effort to educate citizens and legislators about the role of the courts.

Initiatives that Justice Hannah mentioned include, according to a CityWire.com article, a multimedia presentation aimed at adults; a speakers bureau of judges and lawyers; setting up public, moderated discussions bringing together judges, lawyers and legislators; and a “judicial ride-along” program for legislators. He also discussed efforts to reach out to teachers and business leaders.

Discussing the most recent legislative session, Justice Hannah said there “appears to be a movement toward a failure to recognize the value of, or for the need of independent branches of government generally, (checks and balances) and the role of an independent court system more specifically.” He continued:

“I am well aware that, even within leadership positions in our state, there is a lack of understanding of such basic concepts as separation of powers, federalism, the supremacy clause, judicial review or the binding nature of precedent – the rule of law. This lack of knowledge produces real consequences.

“It can lead to bad public policy, but, just as importantly, it can produce a decline in the public’s trust and confidence in the judicial system, which we need for the judiciary to function as do the other two branches of government.”

Justice at Stake has launched a project called “Our Courts America,” an adult civic education program to help fill the knowledge gap about our court system, and to help people understand the role of courts and the importance of supporting them.

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