May 01, 2013

Public Trust: Past, Present, Future

By Zelda M. DeBoyes

In the late 1990s, many of the nation’s judicial, court, and legal professional associations and their partners launched major research initiatives to assess the public’s view of the American justice system overall, with specific attention to the courts. For example, in 1998, the American Bar Association commissioned a survey entitled “Perceptions of the U.S. Justice System.” In 1999, the Hearst Corporation authorized a comprehensive national survey, “How the Public Views State Courts,” that was coordinated by the National Center for State Courts (NCSC).1 These and other studies established and set the tone for a national dialogue on the public’s trust and confidence in the American judicial system. As an active participant in this national discussion, the National Association for Court Management (NACM) chose Meeting the Justice Needs of a Multi-Cultural Society in the 21st Century as the theme for its 15th annual conference in July 2000, convened in Atlanta, Georgia.

I am the administrator for the municipal court in Aurora, Colorado, and during this exciting moment in NACM’s history, I had the honor of presiding over the conference as president. As president, I had a front-row seat to witness the panel discussions, debates, survey findings, and, most importantly, the voices of public citizens. My inherent interest in the topic of public trust later became the catalyst for my doctoral research in higher education.

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