April 1, 2014
ATLANTA, GA – The Next Generation Courts Commission is pleased to announce the release of its final report. After more than two years of hard work to envision what the courts in Georgia will look like in twenty years, the Commission’s report makes recommendations in the areas of education, program improvement, technology, business process, and funding for the courts. On March 22, 2014, the Board of Governors of the State Bar of Georgia approved the report and on September 13, 2013, the Judicial Council approved the report.
The Next Generation Courts Commission began as a partnership between the Judicial Branch and the State Bar. The Commission was formed in 2012 after discussions between former Chief Justice Carol W. Hunstein, Supreme Court of Georgia, and Mr. Ken Shigley, former President of the State Bar of Georgia. The Chief Justice and State Bar recognized that the judicial system was perceived as not adapting to emerging technology and trends as quickly as perhaps it could. The Commission, comprised of judges, court officials, attorneys, legislators, and members of the public, met throughout 2012 and 2013.
Given the structure of the judicial system in the state and the number of policy-making councils and bodies, the Commission opted to develop a list of recommendations that it hopes will be used collectively by the judicial branch in collaboration with the State Bar in an effort to make forward progress.
Some of the recommendations are listed below.
• Education recommendations: seek to fully-fund the Institute of Continuing Judicial Education through state funds; improve training programs for judges, both on-site and remotely; provide training for new and experienced judges, as well as clerks, court administrators, and court support personnel; support efforts to make court procedures more transparent and navigable for self-represented litigants.
• Program Improvement recommendations: Create centers within each judicial circuit for the use of low-income and self-represented litigants; use of standard forms throughout the state; expand Alternative Dispute Resolution programs; support the establishment of accountability courts.
• Technology recommendations: establish a statewide e-filing portal for electronic filing of civil case documents across all levels of court; promote electronic access to civil and criminal court records; create a web-based central registry of attorney conflicts and leaves of absence.
• Business Process Improvement recommendations: outline a uniform approach for the clerk of court to maintain trial evidence; encourage collaboration between the Judicial Council and Board of Court Reporting and clerks of courts when developing rules and regulations; promote use of technology for interpretation and capture of the court record; promote increased availability of interpretation services.
• Funding recommendations: increase state-based funding to provide statewide improvement; encourage legislative changes that allow for the currently established self-funded programs and user fees to be used for their intended purpose rather than going into the general revenue funds of state and local governments.
Judge Lawton Stephens, Superior Courts, Western Judicial Circuit, chaired the Commission. Judge Stephens noted, “We hope that the insight and recommendations presented will be met with not only understanding but also a healthy dose of skepticism. We do not have the solutions. Rather the solutions will come by working collaboratively towards a common vision for the future of the judicial system of Georgia.”