The Racial Justice Organization Assessment Tools for Court

Final Report – February 2023

Executive Summary

In July of 2020, the Conference of Chief Justices (CCJ) and the Conference of State Court Administrators (COSCA) resolved to “intensify efforts to combat racial prejudice within the justice system, both explicit and implicit, and recommit to examine what systemic change is needed to make equality under the law an enduring reality for all, so that justice is not only fair to all but also is recognized by all to be fair.”
To conduct the system-wide self-assessments many state court leaders seek, courts need comprehensive guidance on where to begin, what information to collect and how to evaluate it, and what actions they can take next. This is a complex undertaking that encompasses the entirety of the work of the court and must address a wide range of organizational issues that courts may face. With guidance from members
of the Blueprint for Racial Justice and a grant from the State Justice Institute, the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) developed the Racial Justice Organizational Assessment Tool for Courts to support courts engaged in this work. This report explains the purpose of the Racial Justice Organizational Assessment
Tool for Courts, provides background on the development of the tool, and outlines suggestions for its use by courts. Also provided are the complete set of assessment questions and corresponding guidance that comprise the Racial Justice Organizational Assessment Tool for Courts, as well as a link to the interactive web version of the tool. The appendix includes a brief on data-driven decision making for courts, which
illustrates how courts can use data and evidence to guide policy and practice decisions that promote court ideals of fairness and equal justice.

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What is the Racial Justice Organizational Assessment Tool for Courts?

Providing equal justice for all is central to the mission of the courts and the professional responsibilities of each judicial officer and court employee. Ensuring equal justice requires an ongoing commitment of time, attention, and resources. The Racial Justice Organizational Assessment Tool for Courts is designed as a comprehensive but flexible self-assessment to provide court leaders with relevant information on equity, diversity, and inclusion best practices that can be used to guide statewide or local system review and inform a strategic planning, action planning, or other court improvement process.

The Racial Justice Organizational Assessment Tool for Courts is comprised of a self-assessment, current best practice guidance informed by available research, and key resources that may be useful in assisting court leaders and teams in their work to identify and define local priorities and action steps. This interactive web version of the self-assessment walks users through a series of questions about current practices and generates a summary report that connects users with relevant best practice guidance and resources tailored to their responses. For more information about the tool and its development or access companion resources, visit the resource page for the Racial Justice Organizational Assessment Tool for Courts on the National Center for State Courts website at


Data-Driven Decision Making for Courts

Data are a critical component in court community efforts to promote racial justice in the legal system. Racial justice in the legal system can include both issues that are internal to the courts (e.g., racial equity in court workforce experiences and outcomes) and issues related to external court users (e.g., racial equity in court user experiences and case outcomes). Making policy decisions that are informed by evidence helps court leaders ensure that they are addressing the issues that are most urgent, that policies are having their intended effects, and that there are not unforeseen consequences impeding reform. This brief summarizes various ways that the courts can use data to guide policy decision-making to promote racial justice. The quantitative and qualitative data that courts use to guide their decision-making can take many forms, including case management system data, employment and personnel information, and input from critical stakeholders—including the communities that the court serves. Sometimes the data come from the court’s own systems (such as in case management systems), and sometimes courts must collaborate with justice partners to gather the data they need. There are a wide variety of ways that courts can use data to inform their decision making. In this brief, we summarize five of these applications, but there are potentially many more. These include:

  1. Describing problems, processes, and outcomes
  2. Identifying priorities
  3. Communicating problems and successes
  4. Evaluating what works
  5. Tracking changes over time

This brief highlights a few examples of how state courts have harnessed data to make policy and program decisions. For more examples of how the courts are using data to promote racial equity, see the National Center for State Courts’ Blueprint for Racial Justice Directory of Systemic Change Initiatives. Each entry in the Directory summarizes the roles that data played in the highlighted initiative.


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