The American Judicature Society, once a powerful advocate for judicial reform, ethics and research, is shutting its doors after 101 years, reports the National Law Journal. The society's president, Tom Leighton, said the group's membership model had become “more challenging” in recent years “as new nonprofit entities with organizational and financial structures more suited to the times have joined AJS in the fight” for a fair and impartial judiciary. The society's center for judicial ethics will be transferred to the National Center for State Courts and new homes are being sought for Judicature magazine and for its database on judicial selection in the states. The magazine is an influential repository for academic research on both state and federal judiciaries.
The society was founded in 1913 as part of the progressive movement, responding to demands for legal reform. It helped popularize the “Missouri plan” for merit selection of judges, though judges are still elected in 38 states. A succession of law schools housed the organization, most recently Drake University and, since 2013, Vanderbilt University. Indiana University law Prof. Charles Geyh, who worked for the society in various capacities, said, “It dared to be dull—keeping an unpronounceable name and pursuing an unsexy agenda devoted to making the American judiciary a better place .. It was the keeper of the flame for judicial ethics.” One entity that has moved to the fore on judicial reform issues is Justice at Stake, founded in 2000.