Best Practices Committee
September 17, 2004
Judge Sperline welcomed the new members and gave a brief history of the BJA Best Practices Committee. He explained that the BJA consists of judges from all levels of court and the state bar. The Best Practices Committee is one of BJA’s standing committees. This committee is not populated by BJA members (except for Judge Sperline); it is populated by stakeholders in the court system.
The mission of the Best Practices Committee is:
Judge Sperline continued, about three years ago, nudged by the legislature, the committee began looking into measuring the performance of courts.
Those present introduced themselves. It was noted that there were several new faces; some new to the committee, others replacing people who had served their terms.
Judge Sperline noted that Mr. Gordon Griller was in attendance to discuss the court performance measurement program developed by ACS in partnership with AOC.
Ms. Pettus discussed the General Rule 32-Court Performance Audits (provided on the blue paper). BJA recommended GR 32 and the Supreme Court adopted it. The guidelines adopted by BJA were also provided; the last two pages contain the budget request for staff to conduct performance audits.
Judge Sperline suggested the committee digest this information and revisit it at the next meeting.
Ms. Pettus told the committee that the National Center for State Courts came up with the original (64) trial court performance measures, which were pared down to 10 Core Measures (see gray handout). She proceeded to explain that in October 2003, Mr. Griller asked Mary McQueen if Washington would like to be the pilot state for an automated court performance measurement system (CourtMetrix).
Three pilot trial courts (Benton/Franklin County Superior Court, Kent Municipal Court, and Clark County District Court) have been working with AOC and ACS on the project. Currently, the CourtMetrix application consists of the four performance measures prioritized by the Best practices Committee in January. These four measures are:
While the data for the CTE measure can be gathered from JIS, data for the other measures must be collected manually and are therefore more labor intensive.
Ms. Miner asked about the case file reliability measure; would staff be relied upon to assess their own work? Could these numbers be manipulated?
Mr. Griller said the first step of the CFRI measure is for staff to decide what documents should be included in each file from the start to finish of a case—i.e. documents matching SCOMIS, initiating documents, entries for hearings, etc. The other part of the CFRI measure is how quickly information can be produced for a requesting party. Staff could perform these “self audits” several times a year or in one day dedicated to the process.
One of the Court Performance surveys done was directed to attorneys. Ms. Clynch suggested checking with local bar associations as many do periodic surveys with their members. There might be a way to combine efforts.
Regarding the CTE Index, Mr. Sherfey asked how detailed this system could become, could specialty courts such as drug and mental health courts be added?
Ms. Pettus said the Jury Measures included four areas: yield, usage, jury opinion, and race/national origin.
Justice Owens said she has a concern about measuring quality; that we may be focusing too much on numbers, which may affect the specialty courts. But she does believe this will be a beneficial system and will generate goodwill and positive feedback.
Mr. Hedlund acknowledged that courts could do their own measurements; but having a statewide resource person (i.e. AOC) to discuss methodology would help with consistency throughout the state.
There are three measures that have not been addressed yet (see green handout).
Court Employee Opinion Discussion
Mr. Griller suggested Work Force Strength would be a better title than Court Employee Opinion. Using something similar to the survey developed by the Gallup Poll might be a good approach for this measure. Other things to look at could include employee turnover, position vacancy factors, staffing strength vs. caseload, job training, training requirements, etc. Compensation issues should probably not be addressed, as oftentimes courts are not in control of these issues. Other comments included:
Committee members questioned whether the purpose of the measure is “how is the management of this court doing, is it a decent place to work?" Or is the purpose to determine if the court is effectively using its workforce? The measure is attempting to answer is both questions.
It was noted that the trial courts have asked for a court staffing needs study, but it has not yet been done. This would be useful to establish a baseline.
Cost Per Case Discussion
This measure looks at the total budget of the court and divides it into categories (criminal, civil, juvenile) and estimates how much you are spending per case. This is a measure that does establish a baseline, but it is pretty general. Comments included:
Effective Restitution (Enforcement of Monetary Obligations)
The legislature has imposed mandatory interest accrual on superior court financial obligations which has a big impact on collections. There is a new law that allows defendants to ask for interest to be waived if they’re making a good faith effort at payments. This does not include bail and bond forfeitures; only what the judge has assessed.
One advantage of this measure is the data is available through JIS and therefore could be done with minimal effort from the courts. Although the data collection burden on AOC's part to extract the data from JIS would be enormous.
Each of the pilot courts has been collecting the jury yield and usage data manually. It would streamline the process and have less impact on current staff if there was a jury management system available that incorporate this data. Any jury module should be tailored so each court/clerk can make operational decisions at the local level. There was general agreement that it would be helpful to suggest to the JIS Committee that a statewide jury system would be helpful.
What is the next step for this committee? Would these additional three measures be useful, should we be working on them?
The committee’s collective view of these three measures is that the Court Employee Opinion (Work Force Strength) measure might be difficult to implement as there are many areas that need to be addressed. The Cost Per Case and Effective Restitution (Enforcement of Monetary Obligations) are more basic measures and seem like they could be implemented easier than the Court Employee Opinion measure.
Mr. Griller observed that eight months in to the project, a great deal has been accomplished. He has also seen that it is very labor intensive; AOC and the pilot courts are strapped for personnel to work on the project. Anything that could be reconfigured to automation would be very helpful.
The next committee meeting is scheduled for Friday, December 10, at Two Union Square, from 9:00 a.m. to Noon.
The meeting was adjourned.
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