Document Type

Article

Publication Title

Fordham Urban Law Journal

Publication Date

2003

Abstract

The rapid proliferation of "problem-solving courts," particularly of drug courts, occasions this Article. These progeny of the 1989 Dade County, Florida drug court' can be found throughout the country. According to one report, there are approximately 500 drug courts operating nationwide, with several hundred more coming on line. From these drug courts, a number of other courts have evolved, all under the problem-solving handle. In New York, for example, in addition to drug courts, there are community courts and domestic violence courts. In the State of Washington there is a mental health court. While disparate in their focus, their "problem solving" characterization appears to result from a shared, urgent common goal of judicially addressing problems deemed, usually by the court, as not adequately addressed through the quotidian mills of, at least, the overloaded urban criminal justice system. Chief Justice Kathleen A. Blatz of the Supreme Court of the State of Minnesota has forged a palpable description of this problem- solving stimulus:

I think the innovation that we're seeing now is the result of judges processing cases like a vegetable factory. Instead of cans of peas, you've got cases. You just move 'em, move 'em, move 'em. One of my colleagues on the bench said: "You know, I feel like I work for McJustice: we sure aren't good for you, but we are fast."

This emergence of problem-solving courts as an alternative to "McJustice" has begun to engender debate over the three foundational premises on which problem-solving courts rest: first, courts are appropriate institutions for solving the undertaken problems; second, the resources commanded for this problem-solving do not shortchange the resolution of more important but more complex problems; and third, the problem-solving protocols employed by these courts are effective.

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