Best Practices Committee
June 13, 2003
Board for Judicial Administration
Best Practices Committee
June 13, 2003
Judge Evan Sperline called the meeting to order at 9:10 a.m. Those present introduced themselves. The committee welcomed Justice Susan Owens and Mr. Kevin Stock as new members. Judge Sperline noted that Judge Kathleen O’Connor has circulated an invitation for two members from the SCJA to fill open positions on this committee.
The minutes of April 10, 2003 were entered into the record as written. A membership list which includes the terms for each committee member was distributed.
To bring the new committee members up to date, Judge Sperline spoke about the two, overlapping, tasks being worked on. The committee is just completing a review of the collection practices in courts of limited jurisdiction (CLJs). The BJA is considering a court rule requiring court performance audits. They have asked this committee to make recommendations to them on the criteria for auditing courts’ performance and the methods.
Review of Work Done
Judge Sperline reviewed what had been done on this task. The committee examined the collection practices of CLJs, first through a survey of general practices, then on a statistical level. Dr. Glenn has done most of the statistical extraction and analysis. Over the last several meetings he has presented the committee with the results of his research.
Generally, the data reveal that different CLJs have markedly different outcomes in regard to rates at which they collect the legal financial obligations (LFOs). The speed with which the courts collect the obligations, how that changes over time, and how that changes depending on the category of the size of the LFO (i.e. under $500 vs. over $2000) varies among courts. At the last meeting, the committee began to associate those results with the specific tools used by the courts to determine the effectiveness of the tools used.
Dr. Glenn described the two policy variables that seem to have some effect on the collection rate: 1) number of days an account is delinquent before it is sent to collections and 2) whether the court sends monthly reminder notices. He distributed tables displaying collection rates associated with the policy variables.
The data indicate the number of days delinquent before cases are sent to collections is a significant factor. Courts that sent cases to collections within 30 days of the delinquency had higher collection rates. Sending monthly reminders was found to be an insignificant factor and showed only marginal effects.
Dr. Glenn’s overall basic conclusion is that activating the collection process immediately after delinquency seems to be the most effective.
It was observed that collections are more successful when a lesser amount is owed.
Best Practices Institute
The National Center for State Courts’ (NCSC) Best Practices Institute has adopted an effective practice regarding Enforcement of Monetary Sanctions Imposed by the Courts: Statewide Collection Programs. Copies were provided to the committee.
BJA has asked the committee to establish the criteria and methods for court performance audits. In the course of doing that, we should be asking ourselves:
Ms. Pettus said no state court systems have adopted a court performance audit package that we could adapt to Washington. She provided a handout with information on four states that are looking at performance measures, Florida, Louisiana, Arizona and California. They appear to be at the same point in the process as Washington – gathering information trying to determine how to proceed in this area.
The Commission on Justice, Efficiency and Accountability (JEA) Core Mission Subcommittee Final Report was also provided to the committee. This summary distinguishes the core missions of the court in six general areas; but it is uncertain if this will assist our committee.
Judge Sperline posed the following questions, “What is it that we want to evaluate and how do we do it? Should it be a tool for an individual court to use to get information about what it is doing and decide on ways it can improve? Should it be a report to the public on how our courts are doing?” The path we take will depend on the responses to these questions.
He also asked the committee to consider the following. Should we audit efficiency and accountability as opposed to effectiveness? To what extent is this a statistical function as opposed to a more survey-based subjective approach? Where do the standards come from? Should all courts be ranked and a median developed or is there a national standard for courts? We do have case processing time standards and the jury commission recommendations; should we be using the recommendations of the JEA as mentioned earlier?
Judge McKeeman asked if the Trial Court Performance Standards (TCPS) would be specific enough to help us in this area. Ms. Pettus replied that there is a set of measures within each of the general standards that may assist. The broad categories of the TCPS are:
Under each of these five areas, there are several standards and each standard has several measures.
Dr. Glenn asked about a caseflow management approach. If the various key events of case types could identified and built into JIS with hard edits; information could be disseminated to the courts and it could also be used as a way of measuring how courts are doing. Judge McKeeman said this could be the least valuable method for the courts (with speedy trial rules, they move along fairly well); he suggested looking at the areas where courts are struggling and see if we could assist there (i.e. jury management, expert witnesses, available interpreter services).
Judge Sperline said he sees two basic meanings for an audit: Management Information and Measuring Performance.
Audits that are currently available include: State Auditor (financial); Case Processing Time Standards (annual); Sentencing Practices (Sentencing Guidelines Commission); and a few local audits that are done.
Structure of Work Plan
Judge Sperline suggested looking at some general core functions, dividing them into civil and criminal areas. Then determining what it is we want to know that will tell us how courts are performing in completing the core functions in those areas. Another part of the performance audit is service-oriented. This part would address areas like jury management, access to justice, and efficiency.
Materials for Committee and Next Step
Judge Sperline requested that everyone on the committee to have:
Winnowed list of statistical reports available in present JIS
For discussion purposes at the next meeting, Judge Sperline would like the committee to take a piece of the system (i.e. criminal cases) and (using the resources above) think about what could be measured in a performance audit. From there, the committee can proceed to another core function.
The committee should consider measures in each of the following areas.
For Courts of Limited Jurisdiction
For Superior Courts
Review of Collections Information
Court Performance Audit
The meeting adjourned at 11:10 a.m. The next meeting date will be in September (exact date to be determined).
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