Courts and Confidence: What Do We Know About How the Public Perceives the Courts?


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October 18, 2022 Court Leader’s Advantage Podcast Episode

What do we know about how the public views our courts? We know that the public’s trust and confidence in courts has been slipping over the years. The 2021 National Center for State Courts State of the State Courts survey found that public trust in the courts along other institutions has been declining for some time. In that survey 64% of respondents said they had either a great deal of confidence or some confidence in their state courts. But that is down from a 2018 high of 76%.

That same survey asked, "How much do you agree with the phrase that the state courts provide equal justice to all?" For the first time, state courts were slightly 'under water.' 46% said the phrase described the state courts well or very well, while 47% disagreed. In addition, this year, public confidence in The U.S. Supreme Court (symbolically the paragon of our court system), sank to 25%, down 31 points from its 1988 high. That year 56% had confidence in the Supreme Court.

We’ve asked five individuals, both judges and court administrators, how do their friends and neighbors view the courts and why. We asked them about people they know; people who do not work in the courts.

What are we looking to find out?

· Has trust and confidence in the courts truly been decreasing?

· Do people still rely on the fundamental fairness and impartiality of the courts?

· If trust and confidence is decreasing what are the reasons?

Today’s Cohost

Stacy Worby, State Jury Coordinator for the Alaska Court System

Today’s Panel

The Honorable Yvette Mansfield Alexander is the Judge with the City Court in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Judge Alexander earned her B.A. in Political Science from Grambling State University and earned a J.D. from the LSU Law Center in 1979. After law school, she worked as counsel for the Louisiana State Legislature, Louisiana State Senate, East Baton Rouge Parish Public Defender’s Office and was an Assistant Attorney General for the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office.

The Honorable Ed Spillane is the Judge with the Municipal Court in College Station, Texas. Judge Spillane has served in this position since May 2002. He received his undergraduate degree from Harvard University, and his law degree from the University of Chicago.

Rick Pierce is the Judicial Programs Administrator for the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts. A graduate from Washington and Lee University, Pierce received his Master's Degree in Public Administration from Shippensburg University in 1995.

Kent Pankey is the Senior Planner for the Supreme Court of Virginia where he has worked since 2005. Kent received a B.A. in Political Science from Hampden-Sydney College and a J.D. from the College of William and Mary. He is an ICM Fellow (Class of 1999) and a certified ICM instructor for the courses Accountability and Court Performance, Executive Decision Making, Leadership, Modern Court Governance, and Visioning and Strategic Planning

Sarah Brown-Clark is the elected Clerk of Court for the Municipal Court in Youngstown, Ohio. Sarah was first elected to the position November 1999. Sarah is a 1971 cum laude graduate of Ohio University with a B.S. degree in English; she also earned her M.A. degree in English from Ohio University in 1972 and earned hours towards a Ph.D. in English from Kent State University.

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