The pandemic has required many people to make difficult judgments. Politicians have had to decide which restrictions to impose on citizens’ behavior and individuals were forced to assess how much personal risk to take. Managers, faced with tough calls like which parts of their operations to close, have not been spared.
Our nation is hurting. Outcries for racial equality are heard and seen around the globe. Institutional racism and discrimination exist throughout our society, including in justice systems and trial courts. Systemic inequalities and injustices can be manifested either directly or indirectly. All are harmful and unfair. Understanding and identifying systemic racism is an essential first step in eliminating these persistent inequalities and injustices.
On June 25, 2020, the National Association for Presiding Judges and Court Executive Officers presented a webinar about the anxiety and stress in returning to the workplace in the midst of COVID-19 and budget challenges loom large in the minds of judges and court staff. Added to this dynamic is the national focus on racism and its rightful demands on the justice community, including trial courts. How can court leaders address these challenges and promote a mentally healthy workplace and environment? Trial courts need constructive, empathetic, and effective leaders.
Amid nationwide outrage over the treatment of African-Americans at the hands of violent police officers, it is easy to overlook another racial justice issue that has been simmering beneath the surface — the unfair exclusion of blacks from jury service. In Connecticut, concrete steps are being taken to investigate this problem and devise solutions.
May 27, 2020, the National Association of Presiding Judges and Court Executive Officers hosted a special one-hour webinar for trial court leaders and leadership teams on designing and developing site-specific operational plans for reintroducing jury trials in state and local courts. Tailoring strategies to address unique, local circumstances such as coronavirus infection rates, courthouse facilities, public health and safety concerns, technology capabilities, and judicial / non-judicial staffing levels while abiding by guidelines promulgated by state supreme courts and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention are challenging.
The COVID-19 pandemic has limited access to courts across the country, including in Massachusetts. In response, staff and students from Suffolk University Law School in Boston are working with a team of volunteers to develop mobile applications that will allow members of the public to remotely submit court forms for emergency housing and family law matters.
The headlines of the number of people who have contracted the coronavirus, the people who have died, and the fact that scores of people live in senior citizens homes that no longer allow visitors – all of this drives you to think of your own mortality. Michael Landon once said, “Whatever you want to do, do it now. There are only so many tomorrows.” But it is hard to do what you want to do and maintain social isolation.