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Defending Justice

The Defending Justice essay series, a joint production of SCAJS and the ABA Journal, is a forum for thoughtful and thought-provoking essays about topics related to judicial independence written by prominent judges, lawyers, ABA members, and advocates for fair, impartial, effective courts.

Judicial Disqualification and Disclosure

At the 2011 ABA Annual Meeting, the House of Delegates passed Resolution 107 which the Standing Committee on Judicial Independence (SCJI) prepared and submitted, following collaboration with other ABA entities and the National Center for State Courts, and with the unanimous support of the Conference of Chief Justices.  Resolution 107 urges states to establish clearly articulated procedures for judicial disqualification determinations and for prompt review of denials of requests to disqualify a judge.  Resolution 107 further urges states in which judges are subject to election of any kind to adopt disclosure requirements for litigants and lawyers who have provided campaign support in an election involving a judge before whom they are appearing and to adopt guidelines for judges concerning disclosure and disqualification obligations regarding campaign contributions. The Standing Committee is currently working to implement the recommendations adopted by the ABA House of Delegates.

Caperton v. Massey

On June 8, 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court announced its groundbreaking decision in the case of Caperton v. Massey Coal Co., stating that “there is a serious risk of actual bias” when a judicial campaign contributor with a personal stake in a particular case has a “significant and disproportionate influence in placing the judge on the case by raising funds ... when the case was pending or imminent. ”The ABA amicus curiae briefs, which the Standing Committee on Judicial Independence was instrumental in preparing, urged the U.S. Supreme Court to address whether and when the due process clause of the Constitution of the United States requires judges to recuse themselves, or withdraw, from ruling in cases in which they have accepted campaign contributions from parties to a case. Learn more about Caperton v. Massey and the ABA’s involvement with the case.

State Court Funding: Justice is the Business of Government 

In late 2009, the Executive Committee of the ABA Board of Governors approved the Justice is the Business of Government (JBiz) Task Force. The JBiz Task Force, co-chaired by ABA past President and past SCJI Board of Governors liaison Tommy Wells, SCJI Special Advisor Edward Madeira, Jr., and National Center for State Courts President Mary McQueen, was created to address state court funding; to develop a message designed to engage national, state and local policy matters through enhanced interbranch relations; and to develop court funding principles.

Task Force on Preservation of the Justice System

ABA President Stephen N. Zack established the Task Force on Preservation of the Justice System as one of his four core initiatives for the 2010-2011 year. This Task Force is addressing some of the most critical issues facing the legal profession today:  the severe underfunding of our justice system, depletion of resources, and the courts’ struggle to render their constitutional function and provide access to justice for countless Americans.  The Task Force, housed within the Justice Center, is co-chaired by David Boies and Theodore B. Olson and is comprised of distinguished attorneys and judges from across the nation.

Introductory Judicial Education

Resolution 113, sponsored by the Standing Committee on Judicial Independence, was unanimously passed by the House of Delegates at the 2009 ABA Midyear Meeting in. Resolution 113 urges states to adopt Introductory Judicial Education programs.

State Court Assessment Project

The Standing Committee on Judicial Independence launched its State Court Assessment Project (SCAP) in 2005. The project is designed to assist court systems in determining how well they are addressing the needs and concerns of the populace they serve by providing an independent assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of a state's court system.

State Courts Assessment Project Resolution 10D passed in the House of Delegates meeting at the 2008 ABA Annual Meeting in New York.