Justice System

Law enforcement officers throughout the country regularly respond to calls for service that involve people with mental illnesses—often without needed supports, resources or specialized training. These encounters can have significant consequences for the officers, people with mental illnesses and their loved ones, the community and the criminal justice system. Although constituting a relatively small number of an agency’s total calls for service, these encounters are among the most complex and time-consuming calls officers must address.

The Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles had a problem. In 2005, federal regulations required all convictions and tickets for commercial drivers to be entered into the Bureau of Motor Vehicles computer system within 30 days. Few courts in the state were sending their information electronically. Most of them were either faxing or mailing in rulings. That meant 10,000 paper orders coming in each week had to be entered by a clerk into the bureau’s computer system.

An Indiana proposal would require medical professionals to pass a criminal background check in order to practice in the state.

Idaho Supreme Court Chief Justice Daniel T. Eismann can attest to the success of the drug courts in his state. As a former drug court judge, he knows full well why the legislature continues to support the problem-solving courts even in tough fiscal times.

The Missouri public defender system announced yesterday that its Springfield office would not accept new cases until August because attorneys have exceeded their maximum caseloads.

In the face of an economic recession and budget constraints, states are finding it more difficult to provide a constitutionally mandated public defense attorney for indigent criminal defendants.

Amidst one of the worst periods for states since the Great Depression, courts are not immune to the recession that’s wreaked havoc on state budgets. Even in tighter fiscal times, courts must continue to administer justice.  Specialty courts such as mental health courts are weathering the fiscal storm, according to articles in the June/August issue of Capitol Ideas magazine. The issue focuses on public safety and justice. 

An $11 million shortfall in North Carolina’s Office of Indigent Defense budget could have a ripple effect throughout the state’s criminal justice system.  Public defenders handle about 32 percent of indigent cases, and the Office of Indigent Defense Services contracts with private attorneys to handle the rest. But the 2011 fiscal year shortfall puts that legal service in jeopardy.

States have a variety of procedures for filling high court judgeships. While each state is free to determine its own selection method, most states use one of two systems: direct judicial elections by the people or judicial appointment from a list of candidates developed by a judicial nominating commission.

The cost of medical malpractice litigation can contribute significantly to health care costs. States are leading the way with tort reform experimentation, seeking ways to curb soaring health care expenses. 

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