Best Practices Committee
July 27, 2010
Board for Judicial Administration
Best Practices Committee
July 27, 2010
Mr. Jeff Amram (via conference call)
Ms. Pat Austin
Ms. Linda Bell
Ms. Roni Booth (via conference call)
Judge Steven Buzzard
Ms. Susan Carlson (via conference call)
Ms. Ruth Gordon
Judge Linda Krese
Judge Michael Lambo
Mr. David Ponzoha (via conference call)
Judge Jean Rietschel
Judge Gerald Roach
Ms. Holli Spanski
Ms. Julia Appel
Ms. Colleen Clark
Welcome and Call to Order
In the Chair’s absence, Ms. Ruth Gordon was nominated to lead the meeting which was called to order at 9:35 a.m.
Those present introduced themselves and Judge Gerald Roach was welcomed as the newest member of the Committee.
Approval of Minutes
Ms. Gordon asked if there were any changes to the June 2, 2010 minutes. There were none.
Judge Rietschel moved to approve the minutes as written, and Judge Buzzard seconded the motion. The motion passed unanimously.
Caseflow Management Standards
Ms. Appel reminded the Committee that we are currently working on Caseflow Management standards for superior courts as time standards have been established and data are available. Ultimately, the Committee will adapt those standards, if appropriate, to the courts of limited jurisdiction.
At the last meeting (June 2), the Committee agreed that the Clearance Rate standard should be as follows:
The rate of outgoing cases to incoming cases should be ninety percent.
Ms. Appel noted that after the meeting there was continued discussion about whether the Committee had set the standard at an appropriate level. Statewide clearance data, averaged over five years, indicates that the clearance rate for criminal, civil, and juvenile offender cases is 100%. The clearance rate for domestic cases is 98%. It was suggested that the 90% standard should be reconsidered at this meeting.
• In smaller, rural courts many factors could influence the clearance rate (availability of judges, prosecutors, defenders).
• Data entry practices vary from county to county.
• Standards should not be set based on aberrations.
• It is important to look at clearance rate over a number of years. Courts may fall behind some years, and they may reduce their backlog of cases significantly in others. Over time, the clearance rate will even out and should average 100%.
• It is unrealistic to expect all courts to be perfect at 100%.
• Should domestic cases be included in this audit measure?1
• In courts with very small caseloads, one or two open cases could mean a court would not meet a standard. Should there be a “Not Applicable” choice for those courts?
• In financial audits there are “concerns” and “findings.” Is this how the court audits will be structured? Where is the dividing line? What are the consequences?2
Ms. Appel reminded the Committee that in the performance audit policy approved by the BJA, a court could be audited either when the court requests an audit, or if the BJA Best Practices Committee requests that a court or courts be audited. Specific risk and protective factors will be built into each audit measure. At the end of an audit, the auditor will conduct an interview with the presiding judge. If a court does not meet a standard, the auditor will document those factors. Risk factors could include lost funding, an inadequate number of judicial officers and/or staff, data entry inconsistencies, etc. All this information would be detailed in the final audit report which would be reviewed by the presiding judge before publication.
Ms. Spanski moved that the Committee accept a clearance rate of 99% over a five year average with the ability to note “Not Applicable” if the caseload being reviewed is too small to be statistically meaningful. Ms. Bell seconded.
Tests are conducted in three courts for each measure. After each test is evaluated, the results are presented to the Committee for their input. The tests will likely indicate whether 99% is an appropriate clearance rate. Changes can be made if needed after the tests.
Judge Roach made a friendly amendment to add the word “rolling” before “five year average.” The amended motion reads:
The Committee will accept 99% over a rolling five year average, with the ability to note “Not Applicable” if the caseload being reviewed is too small to be statistically meaningful.
The Committee voted unanimously to accept this amended motion.
Time to Resolution
Time Standards are in place that recommend that 100% of criminal cases should be resolved in 9 months; civil cases in 24 months; domestic cases in 18 months; and juvenile cases in 9 months. They are guidelines not mandatory goals. They were jointly endorsed in May 1992 by the Board for Judicial Administration and the Court Management Council.
Discussion centered on the current time standards, including:
• Jurisdictions will respond to what we do here. The standards should not be too low—if courts do not meet standards, this could put pressure on jurisdictions to more appropriately fund courts.
• Using audit results, we could approach the BJA and show what courts are actually able to achieve.
• It was noted that the current standards are too high and should be changed. 3
Judge Roach moved to include the Board for Judicial Administration’s Time Standards as part of the audit and to include a statement that the 100% standard for each case type is a guideline. A court meets the audit standard at a 90% rate. Judge Lambo seconded the motion.
The Committee voted unanimously to accept this motion.
Active Pending Caseload
This measure looks at active pending cases that are not yet resolved. The active pending caseload ratio simply gives the court an idea of how long it will take to clear all outstanding cases.4 The Committee discussed the difficulty of determining against what standard courts should be measured. It was noted that this should probably not be a pass or fail standard as no national or state standard has been established.
The Committee concluded that this should not be included as a standard in the Caseflow Measure.
Mr. Amram moved to exclude this from the standards in the Caseflow Measure. Ms. Spanski seconded.
The Committee voted to accept this motion; with Judge Rietschel and Ms. Bell abstaining.
It was noted that active pending caseload statistics could be included in the audit report simply to provide context for the court’s case management practices.
Adobe Acrobat Connect - eCCL
Ms. Appel advised the Committee that in accordance with HB 2617 (Boards and Commissions--Elimination) most of the judicial branch commissions/committees must now have an exception form signed by the Chief Justice in order to have a meeting where costs will be incurred (travel, per diem, lunch, etc.). Approval was received for today’s meeting and for an in-person meeting on August 17, but subsequent meetings will likely be conducted by conference all.
Frequently this committee does meet by conference call, where it can be a challenge for people to be heard. The Administrative Office of the Courts is now using Adobe Acrobat Connect, referred to as eCCL (electronic Communication, Collaboration and Learning). It is a combination of a conference call and computer interaction (no video). Ms. Appel gave a brief overview of the product. Ms. Austin noted that she participates in a committee that has been successfully using this product.
• Domestic case processing: see footnote 1.
• Audit consequences: see footnote 2.
• Current Time Standards are inappropriate: see footnote 3.
• Active Pending Caseload ratio calculation: see footnote 4.
• Provide background information to put Committee’s work in context: this will be available at the next meeting.
• Provide link to NCSC CourTools: http://www.ncsconline.org/D_Research/CourTools/tcmp_courttools.htm
Click on any of the CourTools measures on the right-hand side of the screen to see the details.
Include on August 17 Agenda
• A short on-screen demonstration of eCCL.
• A discussion of domestic case processing and whether it is appropriate to include this case type in the standards.
Those present agreed that the August 17 meeting should be in person; it will be at AOC’s Olympia office. Directions and parking information will be sent out to committee members the week before the meeting.
The meeting was adjourned at noon.
1 Staff follow-up: The length of time a domestic case is active is difficult to track as court/clerk practices vary from county to county. SCOMIS was not designed to handle re-opened cases. When a domestic case is reactivated, some counties file a new case. The recommended practice is to remove the resolution code when a case is re-opened. However, this can make it look as if the case has been open for a long time.
2 Staff follow-up: When the audit policy was being formulated, it was not envisioned that the court performance audit would operate like a financial audit (conducted by the State Auditor’s Office), although this might be considered if ultimately a court audit cycle was instituted (e.g. every court is audited on a four-year cycle). Under the current policy, it is likely that a court requesting an audit would be interested in making changes to improve performance based on audit results. If a court has problems sufficient to warrant a BJA Best Practices Committee-imposed audit, some follow-up should occur either formally or informally.
3 Staff follow-up: The Conference of State Court Administrators (COSCA) is considering proposing new Time Standards. It appears from an initial draft that the time standards for processing cases will be lengthened. It is assumed that Washington State would likely adopt these new standards, in which case, the Caseflow Measure could be updated.
4 Staff follow-up: Active Pending Caseload is calculated by dividing active cases that are pending resolution as of the end of the reporting period by all resolved cases for the same reporting period. The resulting ratio is an indicator of how long it would take the court to resolve their open cases based on how many cases they were able to resolve during the reporting period.
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