Judicial Roundtable Promoting Equity and Fairness Within the Court System

Judicial Roundtable Promoting Equity and Fairness Within the Court System

Monday, February 13, 2023

Justices, judges, system administrators, probation, and parole from across the upper Midwest gathered in Omaha to discuss the Blueprint for Racial Justice. The Blueprint project was launched in 2021 in response to action from the Conference of Chief Justices and the Conference of State Court Administrators. The project was designed to be a resource for state court leaders working to ensure equal access to justice. A rountdtable discussion of the Blueprint project was facilitated by Edwin Bell, Director of Racial Justice, Equity and Inclusion for the National Center for State Courts. The roundtable was held during the American Probation and Parole Association’s 2023 Winter Regional Training Institute hosted in Nebraska.

Justice Stephanie Stacy and Justice Jeffrey Funke presented on recent projects in Nebraska.

Stacy, co-chair of the Nebraska Supreme Court Access to Justice Commission, outlined several recent initiatives designed to engage court users in the Commission’s work of identifying and addressing barriers to equal access:

  • Completion of a series of  Native American Community Engagement sessions focused on improving trust and confidence in the courts,

  • Implementation of a statewide court user survey measuring perceptions of access and fairness,

  • Planned focus groups with community leaders across the state to identify local concerns impacting equal access to the courts. 

Funke, liaison to the Nebraska Probation System, noted current programs for probation:

  • Problem-Solving Courts have launched a survey tool to evaluate those being accepted into Problem-solving courts, ensuring there is no bias in accessing the services of these courts.  
  • Efforts are underway to increase the staff’s diversity, implement internships for college students with probation offices, and improve recruiting advertising on social media.

Judge Donovan Foughty from North Dakota, who is also the president of the National Consortium on Racial and Ethnic Fairness in the Courts, discussed related initiatives occurring in North Dakota and nationally.

Additional information on initiatives in Nebraska to improve equal access can be found in the Strategic Plan of the Access to Justice Commission, available on the Nebraska Supreme Court’s website: Access to Justice Strategic Agenda.