“Funding Justice: Strategies and Messages for Restoring Court Funding”This month, a useful document was released by two organizations committed to a strong and fully funded judiciary. We’ll see if it makes a conceptual difference in the contentious nationwide fight over court funding.

“Funding Justice: Strategies and Messages for Restoring Court Funding” was authored by Justice at Stake and the National Center for State Courts.

The report is refreshingly detailed and focused on strategies (placing that word in a report’s title is never a guarantee that the authors will provide any; these authors do). As the authors say, “The guide is entirely based on a nationwide opinion research project that included focus groups, a poll of American voters, and interviews with chief justices, legislators, and others closely involved in debates around court funding.” And at least a portion of the recommendations arose out of focus groups held in Phoenix in February 2012 (so you may have been a part of the research).

National Center for State Courts logoYou can read and download the entire report here.

I appreciated Gavel Grab’s summary and analysis of the report. Author Peter Hardin also includes links to news stories about the courts’ budget crisis.

Hardin also points us to another post worth a look (for detail and extreme candor): this blog post out of the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System. There, Bert Brandenburg (Executive Director of Justice at Stake) and Jesse Rutledge (Vice President for External Affairs at the National Center for State Courts) explain their thinking in how they crafted the report. Their exposition reveals an awareness of the value of political nuance.

Justice at Stake_logoAs Brandenburg and Rutledge explain:

“[The report] advises, for example: ‘Focus on harm to taxpayers and the economy—not damage to the courts.’ It underscores the idea that ‘It’s not about you. It’s about them.’

“[It] also warns against adopting a message that ‘[c]ourts are a ‘separate and co-equal’ branch of government and thus should be treated with greater respect in the budget process’ because it ‘falls on deaf ears with the public,’ the guide says. What’s more, ‘Americans overwhelmingly felt that the courts should not get special treatment, and the judiciary should be expected to tighten its belt—like everyone else.’”

I think the report reflects a deep understanding of the crisis and the persuasive challenge that court supporters face. Feel free to pass it on to anyone who would benefit from it. And let me know whether you think this tool is likely to make a bigger impact in the conversation than approaches from the past.