In Brief

Judiciary plan calls for demographic data collection, better access to court records

By: - August 26, 2021 6:57 am

The Essex County Historic Courthouse in Newark (Photo by New Jersey Monitor)

The New Jersey Supreme Court unveiled its plan for reducing bias in the state’s judiciary branch on Wednesday.

The nine-point plan includes a call for partnerships between lawmakers, state agencies, and jurists to increase job opportunities and training for drug court participants and those on probation, plus mandatory bias training for all court employees.

“The court has again committed itself to a series of initiatives designed to foster a justice system that is accessible, equitable, and free from structural barriers and bias.” New Jersey Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner said in a statement.

The Judiciary will also consider collecting demographic data about court-appointed individuals, including experts and mediators. The hope is that data can help the courts make those positions representative of populations in their jurisdiction.

It will also seek to modernize electronic court systems. eCourts, the judiciary’s online case docket system, has regularly reached the maximum number of users in recent months, making the system temporarily unavailable.

It will also consider using language more readily understandable by laypeople and analyze court systems for potential disparities.

The slate of new reforms is the second the courts have released in as many years. A nine-point plan the judiciary issued last year required judges and attorneys to complete two-hours of anti-bias training and adopted new jury selection questions in an effort to avoid picking biased juries, among others.

“Despite the challenges of a global pandemic, the Judiciary worked hard this past year to attempt to lift some of the burdens that fall disproportionately on Black and Latino individuals in our communities,” Rabner said.

The courts earlier this month fully reopened to the public for the first time since the start of the pandemic. It faces a backlog of more than 90,000 cases.

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Nikita Biryukov
Nikita Biryukov

Nikita Biryukov most recently covered state government and politics for the New Jersey Globe. His tenure there included revelatory stories on marijuana legalization, voting reform and Rep. Jeff Van Drew's decamp to the Republican Party. Earlier, he worked as a freelancer for The Home News Tribune and The Press of Atlantic City.