Reforming Louisiana courts may seem a daunting task, but if other states can do it, then we can, too. That’s why Utah’s 2014 “State of the Judiciary” speech was so important – it highlighted how courts can become more effective by focusing on efficiency, transparency, accountability, and procedural fairness.
In our 2013 Report, CWN recommended bringing the Clerk of Court’s office into the 21st Century through technology upgrades. Utah recently did this and was therefore able to:
- reduce its clerk workforce by over 8%;
- lower costs for postage, paper, file folders, and storage equipment; and
- free up space for additional courtrooms.
It’s time for Orleans Parish to follow suit. Under effective leadership, technology investments in the Clerk of Court’s office would likely save money in the long run through lower personnel, storage, and supply costs, and maybe even create enough savings and space to give Sections B & L (the tiny closets courtrooms in the attic) proper and secure courtrooms.
Another amazing fact from Utah’s recent State of the Judiciary speech: Utah is so confident in the quality of its court system that it allows the media to record and publish court proceedings. Over 100 cases were taped and made public last year, and one two-week trial was broadcast over the Internet in real-time.
In New Orleans, meanwhile, other government business – including legislative and city council meetings – is broadcast, but court proceedings are not. Imagine a truly transparent system where we could observe court from the comfort of our own living rooms!
Utah courts are so accountable to the public that an organization like Court Watch NOLA seems unnecessary there. In Utah:
- every courthouse performs regular self-evaluations based on relevant performance measures and time standards, then posts this information on its website; and
- every Judge’s performance is regularly assessed by an independent state commission, which publishes this information so the public can use it in judicial elections.
Let’s do the same here in Louisiana. Court Watch NOLA would welcome a system that is so efficient, transparent, and procedurally fair that Court Watch NOLA itself is no longer necessary.
Utah’s investment of time and resources seems to be paying off. Thanks to the judiciary’s focus on efficiency, transparency, accountability, and procedural fairness, Utah citizens are more satisfied with their justice system. According to a recent survey:
- 93% of people surveyed were satisfied with their court experience (amazing when you consider that arguably half of all parties in court on any given day lose);
- 93% understood what happened in their case and what steps they should take next;
- 89% finished court in a reasonable time;
- 90% said the hearing was fair; and
- 96% said they were treated with respect.
Court watchers – what do you think these numbers would be in New Orleans? How can we improve them? And when will Utah change the name of
our its NBA team?