American Bar Association - Download Now DOC by X7uYuEq


                                  American Bar Association
                         Standing Committee on Judicial Independence

                         Informational Report to the House of Delegates

The Standing Committee on Judicial Independence (“SCJI”) continues its efforts to improve
public awareness of the importance of fair and impartial courts and the integral role of the
judiciary in our system of government. Under the Open Society Institute grant, SCJI has
maintained its focus on broadening collaboration with ABA entities, state, local and territorial
bar associations, and related organizations.

Since the 2011 ABA Midyear Meeting, major projects have included redrafting of Resolution
115 on judicial recusal, presentation of additional programs for the “Least Understood Branch
Project,” collaboration with the Task Force on Preservation of the Justice System, and co-
sponsorship of Resolution 10B on tax-refund interception as a means of alleviating court

At the 2011 Midyear Meeting, SCJI withdrew Resolution 115. At the request of ABA President
Stephen N. Zack, a working group was formed to discuss the resolution; Mr. Zack appointed
SCJI member Alan T. Dimond as group facilitator. The working group met via conference call
and, in March, in person. SCJI has submitted a revised resolution and report for consideration by
the House of Delegates at the 2011 Annual Meeting in Toronto.

The Least Understood Branch Project (“LUB”), which remains an SCJI priority, continues to
disseminate materials to bar leaders throughout the country with an overwhelmingly positive
response. LUB is a joint effort of SCJI, the Judicial Division, the League of Women Voters,
Justice at Stake, and the National Center for State Courts. LUB focuses on partnering with state
and local bar associations to carry the message of the importance of fair and impartial courts in
our democracy to every possible venue. Under the auspices of LUB, SCJI has developed its
Resource Kit on Fair and Impartial Courts, which includes the video produced by Justice Center
Associate Director Konstantina Vagenas, Protecting Our Rights, Protecting Our Courts. SCJI
receives LUB program requests from bar associations and civic organizations from around the
country on a regular basis. As a result of LUB, SCJI also jointly co-sponsored with the Young
Lawyers Division a “2011 Law Day Video” contest to encourage high school students to
participate in and broaden their understanding of Law Day and the chosen Law Day theme, “The
Legacy of John Adams, from Boston to Guantanamo.” The winner was a three-minute animated
video by Bhargav Tarpara, a freshman at Belleville High School in Belleville, New Jersey. LUB
has been a primary focus of Judicial Division Chair Judge G. Michael Witte during his 2010–
2011 term, and Chair-elect Judge Richard C. Goodwin has made the program one of his core
initiatives for 2011–2012. This initiative has also aligned with ABA President Steve Zack’s
presidential priorities. SCJI will continue to collaborate on LUB projects in the coming year.

Through its Justice is the Business of Government Task Force (JBiz), SCJI also continued its
work with the ABA Task Force on Preservation of the Justice System. Chaired by SCJI Special
Advisor Edward (“Ned”) W. Madeira, JBiz is an SCJI subcommittee that explores sustainable
court-funding strategies for the future. SCJI Chair William K. Weisenberg also testified at the

Task Force’s inaugural hearing on the court funding crisis February 9 at the ABA Midyear
Meeting. The Task Force held a second hearing May 26 at the University of New Hampshire
School of Law in Concord, New Hampshire. Task Force Co-chairs David Boies and Theodore B.
Olson; ABA President-Elect William T. (“Bill”) Robinson III; Honorary Co-chair Lady Evelyn
Booth Olson; Law School Dean John T. Broderick, formerly Chief Justice of the New
Hampshire Supreme Court; and ABA Justice Center Associate Director Konstantina Vagenas led
the proceedings in New Hampshire, which featured testimony from state court chief justices,
court personnel, business and bar leaders, and citizens who have been adversely impacted by the
underfunded justice system. Harvard Law Professor Laurence H. Tribe also testified. Both the
February and May hearings received nationwide media attention by major news outlets.

SCJI was a co-sponsor of ABA Resolution 10B, adopted by the House of Delegates at 2011
ABA Midyear Meeting, to support enactment of S. 755 and H.R. 1416, bipartisan legislation that
would amend the federal tax code to help financially strapped state courts by permitting states to
recover debts, including those arising out of court-ordered victims’ restitution, fines, fees, and
costs, by intercepting federal tax refunds due non-indigent debtors. The tax-refund intercept as a
means of ameliorating court underfunding was one of the three focus issues selected as an
official ABA Day focus issue. The topic of judicial vacancies was another official focus that
SCJI was instrumental in highlighting for ABA Day.

At the Spring Planning Meeting held June 2–4 in San Diego, SCJI members finalized the
resolution on judicial disqualification and also discussed means of responding to attacks on
judges, LUB program next steps, JBiz, judicial education recommendations, new project ideas,
generally, and ways of maintaining and developing existing projects.

Respectfully Submitted,

William K. Weisenberg, Chair
August 2011


To top