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What is a Judicial Council?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Nancy Fann-Im
  • Last Modified Date: 17 November 2016
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A judicial council is an independent organization that oversees policy for a region's courts, usually covering a state or province. The judicial council is responsible for developing and implementing policies, reviewing the integrity of the courts, making recommendations to legislatures, and screening nominees for judicial positions. The membership varies, but typically includes attorneys, judges, members of the bar association, and people with legislative experience.

Judicial councils maintain an ongoing study of the court system in their regions to look at the kinds of cases the court hears and to identify ongoing issues that might impact the impartiality and fairness of the court. Observers may sit in on trials, review transcripts, examine judicial opinions, and audit court procedure. Members of the public can draw specific issues to the attention of the judicial council if they have concerns. The members meet regularly to go over topics of interest.

One aspect of the role of the judicial council involves drafting jury instructions, legal forms, and other documents courts use regularly in their work. These documents may require revision to update them in accordance with legal changes. The judicial council also reviews court policies for things like expungement of records, judicial recusal, and handling of sensitive cases. The goal is to create a consistent system for handling legal matters to make sure people get the same treatment, no matter which court they go to.

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In some regions, the judicial council may screen nominees to the bench to make sure they are of good character. The council can conduct background checks, review a nominee's record, and make sure nominees are members in good standing of the bar and other legal associations. Judicial councils can also be involved in disciplinary proceedings for judges who fail to perform their jobs properly, depending on how the court system in a given region is structured.

Members of the public can access reports, meeting minutes, and other documents through the judicial council. The organization may make them available on a website for convenience and ease of use. The council may also periodically open up proposed policies to public comment, giving people a chance to review and discuss policy proposals so they can play an active role in their legal system. Members of the public who want a judicial council to discuss a particular issue can contact members of the council to discuss the matter and provide supporting information to help members pursue it.

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