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The California Supreme Court Chief Justice Patricia Guerrero delivered the 2024 State of the Judiciary address to the California Legislature in March 19, 2024. This is the the second year of her 12-year term of office.

Among the various topics discussed, the Chief Justice reported on Increasing transparency, improving efficiencies and increasing productivity without sacrificing quality. Caseflow management is an important process in meeting these objectives and providing timely access to justice.

The California Supreme Court, has instituted internal targets for the court to meet. It’s annual number of opinions has trended up, and it also is working its way through some important landmark new laws, such as the Racial Justice Act, which is impacting workflow.

The Courts of Appeal statewide have implemented a monitoring system to manage appellate caseload inequities and ensure that they too are promptly resolving cases.

Caseflow management and time to disposition is also an important tool for trial courts. Data management and analytics help them to manage caseloads, provide interpreter coverage, and make jury duty more efficient. It also informs how they can work best with our justice system partners.

From the clerk’s window to final dispositions – and everywhere in between – caseflow management is critical for the public.The resources the legislature provides are of course crucial.

The Chief Justice was advocating for a stable budget that the judicial branch can count on to make public access to justice a reality for all 58 counties. For this budget year, she was grateful for Governor Newsom’s continued support of her mission to advance access to justice and for protecting essential funding for critical programs and services.

She went on to discuss what is called the Strategic Plan for California’s Judicial Branch. The Strategic Plan provides is a foundational document for the court system..

Since the first strategic plan was developed in 1992, the process has served to articulate their mission and direction, set governance structures and priorities, and helped to navigate some of the most significant reforms, improvements, and challenges in the history of California’s court system.

At periodic intervals they have updated our long-term goals as California and the needs of its residents have evolved.Most recently, in December 2022, the Judicial Council amended the number one strategic goal of “Access, Fairness, and Diversity,” to add “Inclusion.”

“Although this may seem like a small change, as one of our council members shared at the time, ‘As important as diversity is, if you’re not included, it doesn’t matter.’ We saw this as an opportunity to speak out louder and make more explicit the branch’s commitment to an inclusive court system in which all individuals are – and feel – respected and engaged, and their contributions are valued.”

And this first goal guides all facets of the Judicial Council’s review, analysis, and deliberations.

On the topic of Modernization of Management and Administration, the Chief Justice has asked Administrative Presiding Justice Mary Greenwood and Judge Arturo Castro to help lead the branch’s efforts to identify the foundational questions that must be asked to consider the opportunities and challenges that are associated with AI.

Their efforts will facilitate consideration of what might be appropriate uses of AI in relation to the judiciary with the guiding principle of safeguarding the integrity of the judicial process.

No discussion of modernization is complete without a discussion of remote technology. Court users themselves are choosing to access these new services and tools – including 24/7 eFiling, access to online records and research, self-help resources, and remote appearances.

The Chief Justice said that accessing court services remotely works! “We know this from court users and staff alike.” A recent Judicial Council report on this issue showed that:

– – Approximately 150,000 remote civil proceedings are conducted statewide each month;
– – More than 90% of court users and 98% of court staff reported positive experiences; and
– – Very few technical issues were reported.

As always, more work remains to be done. “But we can build on these successes.” Addressing remote access is one example of effective three- branch solutions to better serve the state.