Australian Institute of Criminology

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How judges and researchers can collaborate to reform the criminal justice system

Australian Institute of Criminology, Michael Yarnell
28 November 2005 -

Judge Michael A Yarnell
Superior Court of Maricopa County, Arizona


Many attempts to reform the criminal justice process are driven by government political agendas, for example to be seen to be doing something about crime, to reduce use of illegal drugs, to stop terrorists before they carry out their intentions. Other proposals come from the research community, based on evidence-based research. Criminologists are only too aware of the infrequency with which such ideas are picked up. Judge Yarnell talks about a 'third way', based on collaboration between policymakers, judges and researchers. He summarises the process developed in Arizona (of which he was a part) to introduce bold jury reforms, guided by evidence-based research and involving careful evaluation. He also looks at the way new technologies have been introduced into Arizona courts, again as part of a partnership with the research community. Attention is paid to the use of pilot or demonstration projects to generate support for change.

About the presenter

The Honourable Michael A Yarnell is a trial judge in the Superior Court of Maricopa County, Arizona. Prior to his appointment to the bench in 1991 he practiced for twenty years in the area of general commercial litigation with an emphasis on real estate transactions and construction.

Judge Yarnell is co-chair of the Maricopa County Superior Court E-courtroom Technical Working Group, co-chair of the Rapid Transcript Project in criminal cases, and is a member of the State Bar of Arizona's Continuing Legal Education Committee. Judge Yarnell and his court reporter Patricia Lyons' "real time" court reporting system has been in every day use in the court room for a number of years.

Judge Yarnell graduated from Arizona State University with a B.S. degree and received his J.D. degree, with honours, from the University of Illinois. A past member of the State Bar of Arizona Ethics Committee and the State Bar Technology Task Force, Judge Yarnell has extensive lecturing experience on civil trial procedure, the use of computer technology, real property law, and construction law. He recently served as an adjunct Professor at Arizona State University College of Law.

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