Roger Warren, who recently
became president of the
National Center for State
Courts, brings 20 years of
experience as a municipal
and superior court judge
to his new position.
Warren explains in this
interview with Brian Miller,
features editor, how his
years on the bench have led
to a greater appreciation for
information technology in
the judicial system and
what the Center can do
for state courts.
GT: From a judge's perspective, will you tell us how technology could be helpful to the judicial system?
Warren: Lots of ways. The courts, like other areas in both the public and private sector, are being asked to do more with less. And the courts, in particular, find that their caseloads continue to go up, the volume of the work continues to go up, and the public resources available to operate the courts remain steady.
Technology is one of the solutions to that problem because it allows the court to process more work, more efficiently, for the same expenditure of resources. It also allows the courts to manage their work more effectively by providing information about system performance and core performance that managers need in order to effectively manage the courts.
It offers the prospect of improving access to the courts by those who use it, like lawyers, litigants, jurors and witnesses. Most governmental agencies are concerned about the public having access.
But for the courts, it is a particularly important goal because, ultimately, under the Constitution, people look to courts for redress and dispute resolution. In order to make the whole constitutional form of government work, it's important that there be equal justice to all, that everyone have access to the system. For us, in particular, the use of technology to provide access is critical.
GT: How can technology help the courts achieve these goals?.
Warren: I really see technology as a tool, but other resources are needed. Human resources are needed, including training and professional development resources. Financial resources are necessary. And there's leadership.
One of the things that the National Center is particularly dedicated to these days is encouraging and supporting professional development and the development of effective leadership within the judicial branch, and helping the courts become more dynamic organizations.
By dynamic, I mean organizations that embrace change, that do strategic planning, that do vision setting, that try to be flexible and responsive to the customer's needs and the needs of the people that are served, as opposed to becoming bureaucratic, stiff or wooden.
GT: What kind of changes have you seen in the way technology is looked at over the past few years or decade?
Warren: Oh, huge. Maybe the courts reflect our society, generally, in this regard. My guess is that the reaction of the courts to technology is probably even more dramatic than the reaction of the private sector to technology.
I am in my mid-50s, and I think how you look at this very much depends on where you were chronologically at various points of technological change in society. I have an 11 year-old son, and whenever I do something stupid with a computer, he can come and solve it in a second.
With people over 50 -- probably people over 40 -- the technology came along late in our lives. So there's a natural lack of confidence, as well as a resistance to undoing things that we have previously learned.
You have a situation where the leadership of the court, like the leadership in other sectors, tends to be the more experienced people in the industry. The leadership also tends to have the least sophistication about