Thursday, September 11, 2008
Vickrey to Serve on ABA Commission on State Courts
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The American Bar Association announced yesterday the creation of a commission to ensure the fairness and impartiality of state courts, and the selection of California Administrative Office of the Courts director William Vickrey as a member.
The group said that Vickrey and other members of the ABA Presidential Commission on Fair and Impartial State Courts will be charged with convening a summit next year to foster understanding of challenges facing state courts in serving the public, identifying ways the three branches of government can cooperate to assure adequate resources to meet those challenges, and launching ongoing coordination among all branches of state and local government to keep courts strong, efficient, and responsive to their citizens.
The summit, which the group said is intended to draw representatives of each branch of government from every state, as well as from nongovernmental organizations, is scheduled to take place May 7-9 in Charlotte, N.C. under the theme of “Justice as the Business of Government: a Fair and Impartial Infrastructure for our State Courts.”
Announcing the creation, ABA President H. Thomas Wells Jr. said that “[a] fair and impartial judicial branch is the cornerstone of America’s system of government.”
Vickrey told the MetNews that he was honored by the selection, and that he believed it was connected to California’s “major initiative” on fairness and impartiality in the judiciary, the Statewide Commission on Impartial Courts Chief Justice Ronald M. George established in 2007 to study the importance of preserving the right to fair and impartial courts that make decisions free of outside influences.
Noting that California is unique because it has a constitutional Judicial Council which includes legislators and an active process of establishing long-range plans between the judiciary and the Legislature, as well as the largest state judiciary in the nation, Vickrey said that other states looked to California’s lead, and that he hoped the ABA commission would serve as a bridge to bring the three branches of government together to talk and share ideas on strengthening the public trust.
Wells also named retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor as honorary commission chair and the summit’s keynote speaker, and named Edward W. Madeira of Philadelphia and North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Mark D. Martin as co‑chairs.
The ABA said that Madiera and Martin, working with leaders of the Conference of Chief Justices, are urging the chief justice of every state’s high court to attend and encourage participation by representatives of other state government branches.
“Courts are the ultimate shield of our citizenry when special interests pull society or government in one direction or another. Executive and legislative branches are charged with leadership and policy-making, but it is the courts which ensure that individuals do not fall victim to the whims of the majority, that fundamental rights are preserved as essential to the common good.
“Each branch of government is essential to maintain a balance of power in this country. We must be vigilant to preserve the role of the least powerful branch.”
Other commission members named yesterday included R. Edward Cruz of Houston; Gordon L. Doerfer of Boston; Thomas A. Gottschalk of Washington, D.C.; Orleans Parish Juvenile Court Judge Ernestine S. Gray of New Orleans; Delaware Supreme Court Justice Randy J. Holland; Chief Judge of the State of New York Judith S. Kaye; Rebecca L. Kourlis of Denver; Bernice K. Leber of New York; Arizona Chief Justice Ruth V. McGregor; Mary Campbell McQueen, of Williamsburg, Va.; and Daniel M. Sprague of Lexington, Ky.
Professor Charles G. Geyh of Indiana University, Bloomington, was named commission reporter.
Copyright 2008, Metropolitan News Company