The Council of Chief Judges of the State Courts of Appeal (CCJSCA), an organization affiliated with the National Center for State Courts (NCSC), was formed in 1980 as “a body for consultation” and education “concerning the improvement of the administration of justice, rules and methods of procedure, and the organization and operation of state intermediate appellate courts.” It is comprised of the chief judges of the courts of appeal in the 39 states with such courts. Judges who will become chief judges within the next year also can participate, as can former chief judges. Membership in the CCJSCA provides many benefits to a chief judge and his or her court, including:
- an annual educational conference
- active committees
- the CCJSCA website
- The Chief Brief newsletter
- our relationship with the National Center for State Courts
One way in which the Council fulfills its role as a body for consultation and education is by presenting an annual educational conference at which past, present, and future chief judges share ideas on ways to deal with common problems, learn about effective programs in other state appellate courts, and examine ways to promote efficiency and fiscal responsibility in our courts. Unlike other programs for appellate jurists, the Council’s conferences always address issues of court governance, administration, and process improvement. Those who attend come away with ideas on how to enhance the operations of their courts. This is particularly true for new chief judges in those states in which chief judges serve for limited terms. In addition, friendships established during the annual conference stimulate conversations throughout the year among chiefs regarding innovative courts as well.
The Council’s committees serve as the engines of the Council’s mission. They are Long Range Planning, Administration of Justice, Finance, Education, Newsletter, and Host committees.
Council members have access to the CCJSCA website, which has information on the work of our committees, a “speech bank,” and other information of interest to Council members. Our Members Only section, for example, includes a tool kit for Chief Judges to assist in addressing budget challenges and to identify and implement best practices in performing our courts’ work. In addition, members can exchange critical administrative information in “real time” on subjects of importance to courts, such as judicial independence.
The Council also disseminates its electronic newsletter, The Chief Brief, to the membership at least three times per year. The purpose of that newsletter is to inform, educate, and encourage excellence among Chief Judges.
Furthermore, the National Center for State Courts provides a variety of remarkable services to individual state courts. Among other things, it has technology services, court services, and research divisions available to state appellate courts seeking input on ways to enhance court operations. NCSC also has an Institute for Court Management to help state appellate courts provide professional development for court personnel. Services include online or video conference educational forums. A video conference system offered by NCSC allows state appellate court justices to interview, by video conference, prospective law clerks. NCSC also serves as a clearinghouse for information of importance to judges and court managers and can help state appellate courts provide information to their legislatures to obtain funding. The value of services provided by the NCSC and by the Council’s annual educational conferences is demonstrated by the fact that state supreme courts are affiliated with the NCSC through the Conference of Chief Justices and that state court administrators also are affiliated with the NCSC through the Conference of State Court Administrators.
The Council is funded by the member states. Member dues cover the cost of the many services that we receive from NCSC, and they also cover expenses, including a portion of the cost of the annual educational conference. Thus far, 37 of the 39 states that have intermediate appellate courts have joined or are in the process of joining. The annual cost of a state’s membership in the Council is calculated on a base of $2,500 for each state, plus a small amount for each 1,000 of state population. Using this formula, the current cost ranges from $26,331 for California to $3,821 for Hawaii.
Relationships established through the Council stimulate conversations all year long among Chief Judges regarding court administration and procedures. Indeed, the Council has become a close group of supportive colleagues who treasure the lasting friendships they have forged and appreciate the input that they receive from each other. The Council also recognizes the wisdom and sage advice of retired members, many of whom continue to attend the annual conferences. Together, we are able to enhance the knowledge that each of us has to improve the work of all our courts.