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September 2015

Judiciary

In the News

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How Effective Is Correctional Education, and Where Do We Go from Here?

The Obama Administration has unveiled a pilot program to offer Pell grants to prisoners taking college courses. According to RAND research, inmates who take part in education programs have 43% lower odds of returning to prison. The findings also suggest a return on investment of $4 to $5 during the first three years after release for each $1 invested in prison education.

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Highlights

Does stock ownership affect which judges and justices hear cases? ... New technology to help strengthen criminal justice ... How corporate bankruptcy impacts asbestos litigation

Featured Research

Does Stock Ownership Affect Which Judges and Justices Hear Cases?

A wooden gavel

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Under federal judicial recusal rules, judges and justices who directly own stock in companies must recuse themselves in cases involving those companies. Although these corporations are important repeat-player litigants, there has been little effort to measure the impact of these recusals on the pool of judges and justices that hear cases involving publicly traded corporations.

New research from RAND finds that a surprisingly high rate of direct stock ownership partly shapes the group of judges and justices that decide these cases. This raises concerns about basic fairness in the federal judicial process and could open the possibility to litigants strategically adding parties to their case to disqualify particular judges from hearing the case. RAND's research proposes and discusses several policies that might address this issue, including requiring divestment, the use of financial derivatives to perfectly hedge the judge's equity position, the use of blind trusts, changing the recusal rules, equalizing the treatment of mutual funds and individual shares, and increasing transparency.

Read the report »

Other RAND research on courts »

New Technology Could Strengthen Criminal Justice

A police officer examining a fingerprint on a monitor

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Imagine a world in which offenders can meet their parole officers remotely, and biometric sensors call for help if police are hurt. According to a new RAND report, these are just two examples of how future technology could change the criminal justice field. The study—based on feedback from an expert panel—outlines an array of scenarios like these where Web-enabled technology may aid those in the criminal justice system. The report also identifies the top criminal justice priorities for new online tools, including

  • leveraging web technologies to improve information-sharing and protection across the criminal justice enterprise
  • developing a common criminal record that can be shared across agencies
  • developing real-time language translation tools and improved video displays for law enforcement officers to adapt to changing needs
  • developing policies and procedures for law enforcement to address self-driving vehicles.

However, many of the developments raise issues related to civil rights, privacy rights, and cybersecurity that must be addressed before the improvements can be fully realized. Standards must be agreed upon in order to enable use of the technologies while also assuring that they are not used inappropriately, such as to monitor lawful activities.

Read the report »

Other RAND research on criminal justice »

Bankruptcy's Effect on Product Identification in Asbestos Personal Injury Cases

Asbestos

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More than 100 companies have gone bankrupt at least in part because of asbestos lawsuits. As a result, contemporary asbestos litigation now involves both lawsuits against solvent defendants and claims for compensation filed with specially created asbestos bankruptcy trusts. The outcome of an asbestos lawsuit depends on whether litigants in the tort case introduce evidence of exposure to the products of bankrupt parties. If some of these exposures are not identified, more fault can be assigned to remaining solvent defendants, which are thus likely to end up paying more when such evidence is not developed than when it is.

A new RAND report provides evidence that bankruptcy reduces the likelihood that interrogatories and depositions will identify exposure to the asbestos-containing products of the bankrupt parties. It also presents plaintiff and defense perspectives on whether the findings are a cause for concern: Plaintiffs' attorneys say that the system is working, while defense attorneys believe that a falling rate of product identification post-bankruptcy is of major concern.

Read the research brief »

Other RAND research on asbestos litigation »

Commentary

Should Undocumented Immigrant Youth Pay In-State Tuition to Attend College?

Robert Bozick, The RAND Blog

Obama Commutes Sentences of 46 Drug Offenders. Now for the Hard Part

Lois M. Davis, The Tampa Tribune

Law Enforcement Cyber Center: A New Internet Resource for Combating Cybercrime

Sasha Romanosky and Laura Patton, The RAND Blog

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RAND Congressional Resources Staff

Jayme Fuglesten
Director, Office of Congressional Relations

Grace Evans
Judiciary Legislative Analyst

Laura Patton
Safety & Justice Legislative Analyst

RAND Office of Congressional Relations
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