Statement On The Introduction Of The State Justice Institute Reauthorization Act Of 2008 Senate Floor

Today I am pleased to introduce a bill to reauthorize the State Justice Institute (SJI).  The SJI is a congressionally-chartered organization that was created in 1984 to assist state judiciaries across the Nation in improving the quality of justice their citizens find in their courts.  Their mission is an admirable one, and over the years they have provided funding for a diverse range of projects to help state judiciaries carry out the critically important work they do for their citizens. 


The SJI is unique.  It was created by Congress, and depends upon Congress for its funding.  It has the authority to assist all varieties of state courts—criminal, civil, family, juvenile, and appellate – and is the only source of Federal funding dedicated exclusively to the state judiciaries.  In turn, innovations in one state that arise as a result of SJI funding are shared with courts across the country, maximizing the positive impact this organization has. 


In 2008, SJI grants to state courts included funding to develop new case management strategies, new approaches to dealing with criminal cases involving the mentally ill, improvement of court interpreter programs, and grants to help state courts deal with increasing immigration-related cases.  The SJI targets funding in many cases to addressing emerging state court needs, and spreads its resources as effectively as possible through partnerships with the Justice Department and other private sector non-profits. 


There is a compelling national interest in supporting our state judiciaries: state courts handle over 97 percent of all cases in the United States.  American citizens depend on their court systems to vindicate their rights and to assure that justice is done with fairness and expediency.  Where the Federal government can assist in increasing the effectiveness of state judiciaries, it should. 


I hope all Senators will join me in reauthorizing this important, long-standing organization. 


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