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Court Reform in the Twentieth Century - A Critique of the Court Unification Controversy

NCJ Number
Emory Law Journal Volume: 27 Dated: (Summer 1978) Pages: 559-607
Date Published
49 pages

Arguments for and against the various aspects of State court unification are presented and analyzed.


Court unification has five principal elements: (1) consolidation of a State's numerous trial courts into a one-or two-tier system; (2) centralized management of the judiciary by an accountable body; (3) a grant to the State supreme court of procedural and administrative rulemaking authority; (4) State funding, whereby the State assumes complete financial responsibility for the expenses of the judiciary; and (5) unitary budgeting. Arguments supporting trial court consolidation are flexibility in personnel resources and facilities use, procedural simplification, economic benefits, and enhanced prestige. Arguments against trial court consolidation are displacement of personnel, increased costs, and the movement of limited-jurisdiction judges to positions for which they are not yet qualified. Arguments supporting centralized management are enhanced efficiency, uniformity, and interbranch coordination. Arguments against centralized management include reduction in the benefits of localism, excessive bureaucratization, and an absence of research showing that such a change would be effective. Arguments supporting supreme court rulemaking authority are that judicial independence is desirable and the supreme court is the preferred rulemaking body. Arguments against such authority favor legislative rulemaking and fear the reduction in the checks-and-balances safeguard. The principal argument favoring State financing is based in the belief that local governments are fiscally incapable of supporting local courts, and those against State financing fear that counties will lose control over the policymaking process. Arguments for unitary budgeting are its exclusion of the executive from participation, simplification of the budgetary process, and the promotion of equity in resource allocation. Arguments against unitary budgeting are its promotion of excessive uniformity, administrative burdens, and excessive supreme court control. Overall, the arguments favoring unification outweigh those against, particularly in the absence of other appealing options. A total of 262 footnotes are listed.

Date Published: January 1, 1978