Accountability and Transparency in U.S. Courts
in Accountability and Transparency in Civil Justice 273 (Daniel Mitidiero ed. Thompson Reuters 2019)
12 Pages Posted: 20 Dec 2018 Last revised: 11 Nov 2019
Date Written: December 2, 2018
Every judicial system in the world must balance the values of accountability and independence. Both are important. Accountability helps keep the judiciary in check, while independence allows the judiciary to act as a check and to avoid undue influence. Yet these values are often in tension. The more connected courts are to other arms of government and to the political process, the more accountable but the less independent they tend to be.
Likewise, every judicial system must balance transparency and privacy. These too are important values that are in tension with each other. Transparency—including public access of court records and participation in court proceedings—confers legitimacy to courts and facilitates accountability. Yet transparency comes at a cost to litigant privacy.
How different sovereigns strike those balances depends in many ways upon the particular role of their courts in both politics and society. In the US, accountability, independence, transparency, and privacy are informed by American judicial structures, their processes, and their unique connection to politics. This US Report, prepared for the International Association of Procedural Law's World Congress in Japan in 2019, describes and assesses those features of the American civil justice system in the hope that the American approach for its judiciary may be an informative point of comparison or contrast for other countries.
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