The role of the judicial branch as the final arbitrator of disputes has helped shape our country’s development in many ways. Today, society is asking judiciaries across the country, including here in New Jersey, to expand beyond the courts’ traditional role in adjudicating cases and begin to address some of society’s most intractable problems. This concept is commonly referred to as therapeutic jurisprudence or “problem solving courts.”
Examples of therapeutic jurisprudence include our drug courts, which have helped thousands escape the scourge and stranglehold of addiction, the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) which assists children in avoiding detention while keeping society safe, and the Veterans Assistance Project, which provides referrals to military veterans who enter the court system. Through the work of these programs we have helped thousands transform their lives.
The most recent example of therapeutic jurisprudence is our new Guardianship Monitoring Program. An initiative of Chief Justice Stuart Rabner, the program monitors the well-being of the elderly and disabled who rely on legal guardians to manage their financial and health-related decisions.
We are looking for volunteers for the Guardianship Monitoring Program to help protect those who are among the most vulnerable in our State. Volunteers will work directly in county surrogates’ offices to review guardian files and the annual reports.
Legal guardians not only manage the affairs of people they assist, but also must report annually on the financial status and the general well-being of the individuals in their charge. Written reports are filed each year with the county surrogate.
The Guardianship Monitoring Program has two components. First is the creation of a comprehensive, electronic inventory of all guardianship cases for analysis filed in the state, to ensure that every guardianship case is available for electronic analysis. Volunteers will be asked to work with county surrogate offices to transfer information to the electronic format. Second, volunteers are sought to review the guardians’ annual reports to provide courts with information on the quality of financial management in each case. Until now, the review of annual reports has varied from county to county, and some reviews were minimal.
Volunteers will receive detailed training from court staff on how to read and analyze the guardians’ reports and how to gather data for the new computer system.
Information about the program and how to volunteer can be found on the Judiciary’s website, njcourts.com, by calling toll-free 855-406-1262, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.