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An All-of-Society Approach to Existential Threats We Face Today

We face unprecedented threats to our survival – including increasingly sophisticated adversaries with deadly chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive weapons, cyberattacks, global warming, artificial intelligence, autonomous weapons, deforestation, the decimation of animal species, and the list goes on. If we are to survive, an “all-of-society” response to these existential threats is urgently needed. These are the conclusions my colleagues Katharine Jennings, Susan Ehrlich, Caroline N. Broun, Kathryn H. Floyd, and Michael L. Buenger reach in an article to be published next month in The Court Manager (“Courts Have a Significant Role to Play in the Whole-of-Government Approach (WGA) to Our Safety and Security,” Winter 2019 - Vol. 34/4).


The Problems of Complexity and Hyper-Specialization


In his posthumously published 2018 book, Brief Answers to Big Questions, Stephen Hawking, the world-renowned physicist and cosmologist, who we quote in our article, wrote that our earth …

Hidden Champions and Bright Spots

Suppose you have embraced one or more of the organizational performance measures of the Global Measures of Court Performance of the International Framework of Court Excellence, and let’s say, for example, it is Measure 9, Employee Engagement. The short definition of the measure is the percent of the employees of a court who, as measured by a court-wide survey, are passionate about their job, committed to the mission of the court and, as a result, put discretionary effort into their work beyond their assigned.
You know, of course, there will be variation across courts and tribunals, across several courts in one jurisdiction, and across the 20 questions in the employee engagement survey, and so forth. Our common approach to using the results of such a measure is to focus on the average – the central tendency – and immediately identify the laggards, the poor performing courts, regions, and countries. And then we immediately speculate about what we believe may be the causes of the poor pe…

Happy New Year and Justice for All

Bringing good Holiday Cheer to advocates of justice and the rule of law, Dictionary publisher Merriam-Webster announced on December 17 that its 2018 "word of the year" is "justice." In his Wall Street Journal column, “Word on the Street,” Ben Zimmer cites Peter Sokolowski, Merriam-Webster at large, who told Zimmer that “justice” made its appearance in English in the 12th century as a French version of the Latin word “iustitia,” meaning “fairness” and “equity.”The word “justice” helped to turn the concepts of fairness, equity, and judicial independence into a system that became the basis of common law.
Zimmer notes that the Latin “iustitia” has given us a historical legacy that has a familiar allegorical form: the Roman goddess of justice, Iustitia, portrayed holding the scales of justice in one hand and a sword in the other. She wears a blindfold to represent impartiality in the application of law.

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The Impact of E-Court Services on Brick-and-Mortar Courthouses and the Physical Presence of Judges

Supply chain management -- the topic of the previous post, along with the related financial topic of asset management of court real estate (“The Untapped Public Wealth of Courts,” December 04, 2018) -- was initially prompted years ago by declining court cases and decreasing flows of legal proceedings in courts and tribunals. Understanding the size, location, and spatial distribution of existing judicial resources and networks is critical to evaluating and balancing the supply and demand of judicial services delivered by courts. How many courts does a judicial system need and where should they be located to administer justice effectively, efficiently, and fairly? How far away can courts be from the citizenry before the distance constitute a barrier for access to justice? These are questions addressed by me and my colleague Robert R. Rose, Director of the Center for Geospatial Analysis at the College of William & Mary (W&M) in Williamsburg, Virginia, in a series of judicial mapp…

The Untapped Public Wealth of Courts

Faced with shrinking budgets and revenue streams that are dry or reduced to a trickle, at the same time as citizens are demanding better public services, judiciaries must learn not only how to spend more wisely but also to manage their public assets better. Justice systems own valuable land and brick-and-mortar assets that they often do not use and do not need. As judiciaries around the world consolidate or close courts altogether to improve their supply chain management of judicial service, courthouses are not at capacity or sit empty as judges are transferred to other locations.
This unused real estate represents untapped capital that justice systems should exploit. Historically, courts were located in the administrative centers of towns, cities, states and provinces. Today, they sit on valuable real estate, some of it is outrageously so (think of the center and suburbs of the developing and developed nations of the world). The physical space that courts will need to occupy may decr…

The Wide Gap Between De Jure and De Facto Law of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

Saudi Arabia is a party to the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, commonly known as the United Nations Convention against Torture (UNCAT). The Kingdom’s own criminal code contains safeguards against ill-treatment and torture of detainees.
And yet, according to troubling accounts widely reported last week, advisors to the Saudi royal family, human rights activists, and others with knowledge of the torture of detainees, said that Saudi security officers tortured eight of 18 jailed women’s-right activists this year (“Saudi Women’s Rights Activist Face Torture,” Wall Street Journal, November 21, 2018; “Jailed Saudi Women’s Rights Activists Said to Suffer Abuse,” Washington Post, November 21, 2018). Together with the October 2, 2018 murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, these accounts of alleged incidents of psychological and physical torture, including sleep deprivation, electric shocks, and beatings of detain…

Comity and the Whole-of-Government Approach in the Judicial Branch

Do the formal safeguards of judicial independence and the separation of powers of the judicial branch impede a whole-of-government approach to addressing complex public policy problems that require inter-agency communication, coordination, and collaboration across all three branches of government?
This question plus my tentative answer, namely that the de jure and de facto safeguards of judicial independence and separation of powers constitute a serious impediment to the whole- of- government approach, were prompted by my participation in two events in the last two weeks.
The most recent was the Inaugural Whole of Government National Security Conference in Williamsburg, Virginia, April 20, 2018, sponsored by the William & Mary’s Whole of Government Center of Excellence.Variously termed “one-stop government” and “joined-up government,” “whole-of-government” represents a change in emphasis away from organizational devolution, disaggregation, and single-purpose organizations towards …