This year’s Supreme Court docket includes many cases of interest to the states on controversial subjects like affirmative action and legislative prayer and more esoteric subjects like abandoned railroad rights-of-way and federal court abstention.

Declining budgets, the need for court reforms and efforts to rein in court power necessitate examining how courts work with or lobby other branches of government. This article examines existing research on how courts do intergovernmental relations work and focuses on the need for the development of best practices.

Challenging fiscal times have created a unique window of opportunity for court leaders to critically examine current business practices. One extant court function that has been the focus of reengineering efforts is the creation of the court record. Making the verbatim record is an essential court function that historically has relied on court reporters. Recent reform in several states suggests systemic change to incorporate digital recording technology in creating the record is difficult to achieve, but not insurmountable.

A May 2014 state-by-state survey conducted by National Public Radio (NPR) finds that the costs of the criminal justice system across the U.S. are increasingly being shifted to defendants and offenders. Specifically, defendants are now being charged for government services that were once free, including those that are constitutionally required. From the study:

Even though the Supreme Court’s next term won’t officially begin until October 6, the Court has already accepted about 40 of the 70 or so cases it will decide in the upcoming months. 

For a more detailed summary of all the cases the Court has accepted so far affecting states, read the State and Local Legal Center’s Supreme Court Preview for State Governments.

Here is a quick highlight of what is on the Court’s docket right now that will...

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In the decades-long legal battles over school funding, different states have taken turns in the national spotlight. All eyes were on Ohio in the late 1990s, for example, after its state Supreme Court ruled on multiple occasions that the K-12 funding system was unconstitutional — due to an overreliance on local property taxes and a failure to deliver a “thorough and efficient system of common schools.”

When Beth Gill became a lawyer 26 years ago, she went into family law.
“As a result, I became very passionate about upgrading our level of representation for people in family crisis,” said...

The legislative and executive branches have been in a longstanding gridlock, making it difficult to assess their standing on federalism. 

But the U.S. Supreme Court has made its standing clear. The last two Supreme Court terms have produced four blockbuster decisions. All four of these cases have one thing in common—federalism.<--break->

The U.S. Supreme Court’s October Term 2012 includes a number of significant cases affecting the states including two same-sex marriage cases, a challenge to the constitutionality of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act and a claim that the National Voting Registration Act preempts Arizona’s evidence-of-citizenship requirement to register to vote.
 
Recent reports about state courts invariably highlight contention over how judges are selected and the unrelenting decline in court budgets. This report is no different. But behind the saga of inadequate court resources and the presence of big money, special interest influence and partisanship in the selection of judges, other significant stories are playing out. State courts are striving to innovate by applying the latest technology to the courthouse and courtroom. State courts also are looking for advice from new media experts about new ways to communicate with the public and improve court processes, as well as how to adapt those processes to ensure trials remain fair in a digital world. Evidence on the value of implementing procedural fairness as a mechanism for reducing recidivism was reinforced by a new community court evaluation.
 

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