The National Center for State Courts (NCSC) is a nonprofit organization charged with improving judicial administration in the United States and around the world.
Its government relations’ team, headed by executive director Kay Farley, serves as the organization’s voice in D.C. alerting the state chief justices and court administrators of potential and actual legislation that will have an impact on them, and advising on policy.
The possibility of missing something important used to keep Farley and her team up at night as the repercussions could be extensive.
A large slice of federal policy directly impacts state court operations and the administration of justice, which means Farley’s team of four staff members has to stay on top of multiple different pieces of legislation.
“I think people are sometimes surprised by the number of issues we track on behalf of the courts. There’s a whole host of issues that could impact the way state courts do their business, so we need to identify those and help policy leaders understand what the impact is.”
CQ’s in-depth keywords and alerts system makes her job easier.
“We all have our keywords for what we’re tracking. And based on those we get an alert when something happens on a topic. We’ll set up an alert for that bill and monitor its progress and then do analysis on whether or not it looks like it’s something that’s going to move, or just get introduced.”
Based on that, the team decides whether it’s something they need to alert their members to in case they want to take a policy position on it.
“Then we’ll work with the committee staff or personal staff on the legislation. That identification process based on our keywords is crucial for us.”
“We each have a set of issues that we’re responsible for tracking and reporting on to the state court leaders. It’s not only tracking, but also identifying whether or not the conferences want to take a policy position, and if they do, letting folks know what those positions are,” says Farley.
A lot of issues Farley’s team tracks come up in committees. These can range from the Judiciary Committee, House Ways and Means Committee, Senate Finance Committee, Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, and the Appropriations Committee.
“But sometimes issues can pop up in other unexpected places,” says Farley.
“It could be detrimental in that they [state courts] have difficulty implementing a policy that’s come down that they didn’t anticipate or have any involvement in. Or there could be a requirement coming down from Congress in some federal funds, but the courts aren’t included in the funding, even if they have a responsibility for implementing,” says Farley.
The NCSC’s stakeholders rely on Farley’s team to tell them what’s coming up or happening in legislation. What bills are moving and what their effect might be for the state courts.
But with that major defense mechanism in place she also relies on other aspects of the tool to keep her and her team ahead of the game.
Along with CQ’s tracking services, she and her colleagues also utilize CQ Bill Text, Committee Reports and Testimony and Bill Analysis.
“The analysis that comes out on bill tracker, and the projections, and just understanding the process is very valuable for us. We just don’t have that in-depth knowledge ourselves, so having that extra piece available to us is very valuable. Some of our issues may not necessarily get covered in the articles that CQ produces but if we need help they’re very helpful and responsive in trying to assist.”
“I honestly don’t know how I would do my job without those alerts,” says Farley.