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Herding Lions: Shared Leadership of State Trial Courts

NCJ Number
Barbara Rodriguez Mundell; Wallace B. Jefferson
Date Published
12 pages
This paper identifies and discusses some of the factors underlying tension between State supreme courts and local trial courts, and it promotes a "shared leadership" model that will leverage local court innovation in States where the judicial function is dispersed.
Whether a State's judicial structure is unified or decentralize, a State supreme court must ensure access to and the availability of essential court services. Uniformity at some level is necessary; however, tension can occur when local courts wish to engage in innovative procedures and practices that may depart from statewide procedures developed and promulgated by the States supreme court and promoted by the State's office of court administration. In an effort to maintain the benefits of uniformity while allowing room for grassroots innovation by local courts, this paper proposes a structure of collective responsibility, shared leadership, and the fostering of partnership. Shared court leadership can be achieved through collaboration among the chief justice, the State court administrator, presiding judges, trial judges, and court personnel. This collaboration is based on a sense of shared court mission, a common organizational vision, mutual respect and trust, and continued open channels of communication. This paper provides specific recommendations for how such a collaboration and shared leadership can be implemented. Such a system of shared leadership can allow for and encourage innovation by local courts. One approach is to designate selected trial courts as "centers of excellence." Such courts can become the arena for research and pilot testing of innovative programs in a particular area of court services. This model is not intended to preclude innovations of any kind in any trial court; rather it provides a more focused and potentially fruitful means of encouraging and promoting trial court innovations. 21 references

Date Published: January 1, 2012