A Second Act
by Michael Daly Hawkins
Social Media in the Courtroom | Meet the Tweeting Judge | Reducing Recidivism | and more …
The Incredible Journey of Marian Opala by Robert Bell
Public interest in the American jury system is at an all-time high. Late last year, NPR’s hit podcast “Serial” pulled in over 1 million listeners per week as it recounted the real-life investigation and jury trial of Adnan Syed, a Muslim man accused of murdering his ex-girlfriend. The case against Adnan was thin, based mostly on circumstantial evidence and seemingly polluted by racial undertones. The podcast gave many listeners a closer look at our justice system than they’d ever had before — and for some, it seriously shook their faith in the American jury. It left listeners wondering, “How in the world did that jury convict?” and “Did racism contribute to this man’s conviction?” Along similar lines, some members of the public expressed shock (and sometimes outrage) when grand juries in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City, tasked with investigating the deaths of black men at the hands of local police officers, failed to return indictments. Again, the public was left wondering what happened in the jury room.
In delivering the Lloyd D. George Lecture on the Judicial Process at UNLV William S. Boyd School of Law last year, Duke Law School Dean David F. Levi laid out his assessment of the “Grand Challenges for the Legal Profession and the Judiciary.” His lecture is reprinted here, followed by a roundtable discussion among judicial leaders who are responding to the call for new ideas and solutions for these grand challenges.
Predictability in the law is treasured as a core value in American jurisprudence, yet in some cases judges make decisions that they know will diminish predictability. This study examines how and why judges make this choice. Two Texas appellate courts that share jurisdiction serve as an ideal laboratory to examine the question. The findings, however, have a broad application because virtually all judges face the “predictability choice.” The dual-survey study shines a light on the judicial preferences and priorities that shape this value choice, revealing a curious gap between what is prized in principle and what is promoted in practice.
While federal magistrate judges are widely viewed as a highly qualified, experienced, and flexible corps of judicial officers who assist Article III district judges in docket management within the United States courts, some legal commentators have sounded the alarm that private special masters — who are compensated directly by parties — have largely usurped this function in complex federal litigation. Other commentators have urged more special master appointments, contending that district court dockets are becoming increasingly overwhelmed. Although some contend special masters possess essential field-specific expertise, there is growing public concern that special master appointments have evolved into a lucrative “cottage industry” fueled by unnecessary delegation of judicial authority
Even Henry V probably could not exhort the rule makers to action, but reported needs of the procedural system may do so. Surely the class-action rule is one of the most important in the rulebook. Equally surely, it has vocal supporters and opponents. Indeed, it has even attracted international detractors. Changing the rule therefore is a project that must be approached carefully and deliberately. Only after much thought should change proceed. Only after further evaluation, and public comment, should a change be adopted. But failing to modify the rule to adapt to evolving litigation conditions might produce greater problems than undertaking change. The Advisory Committee on Civil Rules has formed a subcommittee to consider whether constructive changes can be made to Rule 23, and this article is designed to introduce the current discussions and invite readers to make suggestions about them.
Doing Discovery Right: Judges Leon Holmes and Craig Shaffe rdiscuss the impact of discovery amendments that aim to improve access to the courts and reduce pre-trial expenses.
Dean Erwin Chemerinsky weighs the good and the bad in The Behavior of Federal Judges.
The nation’s first all-woman state supreme court was established in Texas in 1925 for the purpose of hearing one case — which happened to involve most of the state’s male judges.