March 2, 2011 – Most of us are familiar with the Wisconsin state court web site with its abundance of information. But where do you go when you need information about another state court or about state courts generally? You can visit each court’s website, or you can start your search at the National Center for State Courts (NCSC). Established in 1971, the NCSC’s mission is to serve as “an information clearinghouse so that innovations in one court can benefit all courts.”
The NCSC website is a valuable legal research tool. The Public Access to Court Records page connects users to a state-by-state listing of CCAP-equivalent web pages. This listing illustrates the vast range of available online records. Some states support county-based systems, while others have a statewide program similar to Wisconsin. Some states don’t have this type of access. The website provides no indication of how often it is updated, so it is unclear if the page is comprehensive. It is, however, a great starting point.
A listing of court operations for each state also is available. Select the Information and Resources tab to browse by state. Individual state links include court opinions, mediation guidance, juror instruction, and an explanation of court management and more.
You can compare various state court statistics, structures, judicial salaries, or their judicial selection process or peruse a 50-state survey on handling mass tort cases. As part of its Mass Tort Clearinghouse, the NCSC conducted a survey to learn how mass torts are treated in the various state court systems. Here you can find out about each state’s definition of mass tort, procedural rules, statutes, case law, case management, and technology. The amount of detail found varies by state.
For a complete listing of all the information the NCSC offers, visit the Topics A-Z page. This page identifies nearly 100 topics of potential interest, such as electronic filing, sentencing, evidence handling, and legal education.
As state courts continue to evolve, technology plays a strong role in that movement. To better understand the path state courts are taking, check out the technology tools page. This section explains both national and court-specific standards. You can also locate discussion on e-courts, high-tech courtrooms, document management, and video technologies within the courtroom.
The next time you need information about another jurisdiction’s court system, the NCSC might be the place to start.
About the author
Bev Butula is the manager of library of services at Davis & Kuelthau, Milwaukee. She is a past president of the Law Librarians Association of Wisconsin. Butula has written articles and spoken to numerous groups on issues such as effective Internet research, evaluation of websites, and legal research. Prior to obtaining her Master’s Degree in Library Science from UWM, Butula was a litigation paralegal.