Chief Justice Rush to lead national Opioid task force

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on September 22, 2017

The misuse of opioids such as heroin, morphine, and prescription pain medicines is not only a devastating public health crisis, it is critically affecting the administration of justice in courthouses throughout the United States. In response to this national crisis, top state court leaders formed a task force to find solutions, examine current efforts, and make recommendations to address the opioid epidemic’s ongoing impact on the justice system. Chief Justice Loretta H. Rush will co-chair the task force.

The announcement was made Wednesday by the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) on behalf of the Conference of Chief Justices and the Conference of State Court Administrators. The two groups jointly adopted a policy resolution at their recent annual conference to establish the task force.

Chief Justice Rush, who is also on the Conference of Chief Justices Board of Directors, is committed to working with her colleagues across the country to address the issue. She said, “While much attention has deservedly been focused on this epidemic’s health impact, we cannot ignore the significant legal issues it also raises. It has become a recurring theme throughout our nation that this crisis is crippling our communities and overwhelming our courts.”

The work plan for the judicial branch task force includes the following strategies:

  • Convening representatives from state and federal government and key national organizations to share existing strategies and identify unmet needs
  • Creating partnerships with entities addressing the impact of opioids on children with specific emphasis on foster care, assisting state courts in developing opioid task forces, and working with existing state task forces to make recommendations for local response efforts
  • Developing guiding principles that state courts can use for successful collaboration among treatment providers, criminal justice systems, and child welfare agencies
  • Creating a checklist of state legislation, policy, and court rules that aid or inhibit response efforts

Chief Justice Rush is co-chairing the task force with the Tennessee State Court Administrator Deborah Taylor Tate. Other task force members include Iowa Chief Justice Mark Cady, New Mexico Chief Justice Judith Nakamura, Vermont Chief Justice Paul Reiber, Michael Buenger of Ohio, Nancy Dixon of Kansas, and Corey Steel of Nebraska. An initial in-person meeting of the members of the task force will take place in Washington, DC on November 13, 2017.

Financial support for the study group comes from the State Justice Institute. The NCSC will provide additional funding, as well as staffing support. Questions about the task force can also be addressed to Lorri Montgomery, NCSC Director of Communications at 757-259-1525 or