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Court Unification

NCJ Number
Date Published
15 pages
State court unification is discussed in terms of its goals, nature, benefits, crucial components, implementation issues, and performance indicators.
This process has four components: 1) a simplified State trial court structure; 2) rulemaking authority in the supreme court or judicial council; 3) governance responsibility in the chief justice or supreme court, aided by a professional administrator and staff; and 4) State funding of all or most of the judicial system. Uniform, quality justice is the goal of the unification process. Other benefits include the reduction or elimination of overlapping and fragmented jurisdiction among trial courts, streamlined trial and appellate processes, and management and planning for the entire system. Planning and carrying out an administrative unification is complex and requires 12 to 18 months of lead time. States considering court unification can learn much from the experience of other jurisdictions. An evaluation should take 3 to 5 years after the unification and should focus on personnel quality and productivity, planning capability and resource allocation, data processing, administrative effectiveness, impacts on court effectiveness, costs, and user satisfaction. Appended historical overview of court unification, list of information sources, and 20 references.