Message from the President - SJI

In this edition of The President’s Message, I would like to pay tribute to one of our valuable partners in providing important services to our members to improve the quality of justice in our state courts: the State Justice Institute (SJI).

SJI is a non-profit corporation governed by an 11-member Board of Directors appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. By law, the President must appoint six state court judges, one state court administrator, and four members of the public (no more than two of whom may be of the same political party).

In 1984, Congress established SJI to award grants to the state courts, charging it with the mission of “assuring each person access to a fair and effective system of justice.”  SJI remains the only source of federal or private funding dedicated exclusively to improving the quality of justice in the state courts.

Over the years, SJI has provided funding for the following important projects of CCJSCA:

1.      Comparative Attributes of Legal Staff in Intermediate Courts

CCSJCA received funding from SJI for a technical assistance grant to obtain the services of NCSC to assist with the evaluation of the relative benefits or drawbacks of central appellate research staff as compared with one-year or professional “elbow clerks,” particularly in varying size appellate courts.  The evaluation of the attorney support structure arose in the context of fiscal crisis and associated costs, but had other ramifications such as productivity and perceptions of the effects on appellate justice.  The consultant assistance included conducting an evaluation by means of a survey to the state courts of appeal, followed by site visits, to prepare and present the results of the evaluation at the 2010 annual meeting and to develop a White Paper.  The White Paper entitled, “Comparative Attributes of Legal Staff in Intermediate Appellate Courts” was published in April of 2011 and is available on the NCSC website.

2.      CCJSCA Website Redesign Project

CCJSCA received funding from SJI to redesign its five-year old website to create a new, visually appealing website that would provide more efficient and direct communication with current members and better enable CCJSCA to attract new members.  The redesign to the website included:

a.       A new, visually appealing look for the website.

b.      Website functionality so members can register and pay for events and services online.

c.       Applications on the website where members can keep abreast of news, information, and current publications of the organization.

d.      A forum where members can connect to others in the membership about issues and lessons learned.

e.       Enhancements that enable the website to be used as a tool to reach new and prospective members.

The project was completed and unveiled at the CCJSCA Annual Conference held in Houston, Texas in 2012.

3.      Online Education Program

CCJSCA received funding from SJI to develop and deliver online curricula based on the governance and leadership materials created as part of the Executive Session for State Court Leaders in the 21st Century (“Executive Session”).  This project provides interactive online resources to appellate judges with leadership responsibilities to enable them to apply the principles of the Executive Session to the challenge of administering appellate courts.  The online resource demonstrates to the chief judges that court leaders should focus not on leadership practices that work for governing private corporations and executive branch agencies, but instead should look to the more appropriate model offered by what are called “loosely coupled” organizations. The educational resources focus on five areas.  The first topic area describes what a loosely coupled organization is and the next four address mechanisms by which loosely coupled organizations can be effectively governed.  The first two modules are currently available on the CCJSCA website and the others will be posted soon.

We look forward to working with SJI on additional projects in the future.


William D. Palmer
Judge, Florida Fifth District Court of Appeal
President, Council of Chief Judges of the State Courts of Appeal, 2015-2016