University of Denver

Ten Years of IAALS: A Valued and Trusted Partner in Securing Fair and Impartial Courts

Director of State Affairs, Justice at Stake

IAALS is celebrating its 10th Anniversary in 2016. Throughout the year, we will be featuring guest posts from our colleagues and partners to recap our accomplishments and national impactand look to the future ahead. The full series of posts will be collected here.

On the occasion of IAALS’ 10th anniversary, I’ve been reflecting on the strength of our partnership over the years, and on the value of that partnership as our shared work for fair, high quality courts takes on ever-greater significance.

Justice at Stake (JAS) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization working to keep America's courts fair and impartial. We work for reforms to keep politics and special interests out of the courtroom—so judges can protect our Constitution, our rights, and the rule of law. As you can see, our mission aligns pretty perfectly with that of IAALS and its Quality Judges Initiative.

As Director of State Affairs, I learned early on that IAALS was an organization I could count on for quality research and materials, delivered without a partisan lens. IAALS has become our go-to group when state advocates ask for advice about judicial performance evaluations, and I credit their strong work in this area with helping to increase awareness of and demand for this critical reform. IAALS’ work on the O’Connor Judicial Selection Plan has helped advance the discussion about important elements of an effective, transparent merit selection system.

Over the years, the dedicated staff at IAALS have become more than just experts—they are valued colleagues. And never more so than when our two organizations partnered to convene a diverse, bipartisan group of academics, judges, strategists, and advocates to discuss what can be done to counter the trend towards growing politicization of judicial retention elections. A convening of this size and scope is always a major commitment. More so, this event required the preparation of multiple reports and documents to inform participants prior to the event, the design of a well-balanced agenda, and the preparation of a post-convening report that fully captured the free-flowing discussion and started to lay a path for future reform and research. With strong guidance from Rebecca Love Kourlis and others on the planning committee, Malia Reddick, Manager of QJI, shouldered that burden with our team, stepping up wherever needed and providing valuable insights. The event itself was a great success—particularly given the appearance of former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor (honorary chair of the JAS board and the IAALS O’Connor Advisory Committee) at our group dinner.

We’re fortunate to be able to rely on IAALS as a partner that brings a strong nonpartisan voice—a voice of measured reason—to the field. I look forward to continuing to work together to ensure that our nation’s need for courts that treat all comers without fear or favor doesn’t fall victim to partisan rhetoric and special interest pressures.