Best Practices Committee
December 10, 2004
Judge Sperline called the meeting to order; the members introduced themselves.
Judge Sperline asked if there were any changes to the September 17 minutes; there were none.
The committee was provided a copy of a letter from Judge Paula Casey, Chair, SCJA Family and Juvenile Law Committee (FJLC), to Judge Leonard Costello as President-Judge of the SCJA. The FJLC recommends the Supreme Court adopt a rule mandating that Unified Family Court (UFC) principles be implemented statewide by December 31, 2006. The FJLC is seeking the Best Practice Committee’s approval, in anticipation of sending this request on to the BJA for approval and implementation.
The committee, in discussing this proposal, agreed that some action from the Best Practices Committee is appropriate.
Ms. Pettus elaborated that subsequent to this letter, at the September SCJA Board meeting, these best practices were adopted. The SCJA asked the BJA to also adopt them. Judge Fleck, BJA member-chair, said this request should come to the Best Practices Committee first and then be sent back to the BJA.
Ms. Gould indicated that Thurston County was a pilot county for the UFC. Mediation is available within 120 days after dissolution is filed. 120 days is considered the outside date.
Judge Barnett indicated that she believes it should be sooner than 120 days. She would like to see it clarified that 120 days would be the latest mediation would happen, not the earliest.
In response to a question, Ms. Gould said that when a case comes before the court, ALL files are pulled (DV, juvenile, criminal, etc., and all levels of criminal cases). She added that in the first six months of the UFC operation, they saved 18 days of court time.
Ms. Motyka said the judges in Pierce are concerned about mandating UFCs. It will be a major challenge and is mainly a resource issue. It was agreed that resources are an issue in all counties.
Judge Sperline said it is clear that financial resources will be impacted, and this impact will differ from judicial district to judicial district. The best question is whether or not the rule, as it is proposed, adequately acknowledges this issue. The proposed rule is written in a way to accommodate that, but there are still concerns, springing from concepts and procedures of larger courts.
Discussion: Judge Sperline said that there are outstanding issues and concerns that need to be addressed, but he feels the discussion at the BJA meeting will address them.
Judge Sperline asked the committee to keep in mind that the committee's action on the UFC rule proposal was a clearing function to get the rule before the BJA. Much consideration is due this proposal. If there are additional thoughts and comments, please pass them along to BJA.
Ms. Pettus recently spoke with ACS. Up to this point, the partnership has been a “sweat equity” partnership – no contract or money has been involved. AOC (Dr. Glenn and Ms. Pettus), the pilot trial courts’ staff (Benton/Franklin County Superior Court, Kent Municipal Court and Clark County District Court), and the programmers at ACS that developed the application have been the main players. We are now at a juncture where ACS is ready to move to a different level. Ms Pettus provided the following status report.
What has been completed?
What remains to be completed?
Where do we go from here?
Ms. Gould said that it takes an extreme amount of time to enter the data. Once other projects are completed (CAPS, JIS) the staff time should be available, but she would not support expanding the project. She supports the AOC recommendation.
It was asked if this system has been beneficial for the participating courts. Ms. Austin (Benton/Franklin County) said that at early glance, it is beneficial. There have been some problems getting access to screens for various reasons, but she supports the AOC recommendation. It gives the pilot courts time to see and use the information over time.
Judge Sperline asked if the committee accepts the AOC recommendation, would ACS advance on their own?
Dr. Glenn responded that he believed ACS has two clients signed up and that they would bundle this work in with their other applications.
Judge Sperline inquired about statewide jury management. Ms. Gould replied that it is on the table for JIS. They are discussing the issue.
Ms. Pettus added that 14 counties use a small system, but it’s not very robust; there are two vendors for a major jury management system (ACS is one of those vendors).
King and Skagit counties use the ACS jury system; is it possible that ACS would give the state a cost break by having King County host the server. That answer is not known at this point.
Mr. Hedlund said he believes it is in the long-term best interest to follow AOC’s recommendation. As budgets get tighter, the courts need to show the effectiveness of their programs.
Judge Sperline added that this project allows courts to define the measures. Ms. Austin agreed the courts need to monitor themselves. The ACS system is easy to access, and it has not been a big workload impact. Judge Anders added that while it was more work at the beginning, it is now easily workable.
Ms. Pettus said she likes the look and feel of the display. It is not a court performance audit tool as it does not include enough areas. It does, however, distill some information that is useful, e.g., the court user, attorney, and juror surveys.
As background, Ms. Pettus said there has been legislation introduced the last couple of years regarding mandating performance audits. That led the BJA to ask this committee to look at performance audits. A year was spent developing a performance audit policy. The policy was approved by the BJA in December 2003 and the Supreme Court passed General Rule 32 in March, 2004. GR 32 reads as follows.
The policy is very broad and does not say how a performance audit will be conducted. But it does address base measures that would be conducted in each audit. AOC has submitted a budget request for three FTEs to conduct the audits.
Individual courts would only be audited at the request of the presiding judge. On occasion, the BJA may request that an audit of an individual court be conducted. AOC would use base measures and other measures specific to issues of the individual court. Statewide audits may be conducted on specific areas requested by the BJA, for example, the courts of limited jurisdiction collections study.
Judge Sperline added the initial project for this committee is to identify what base measures would be used in the audit plan. Pursuant to the policy, base measures would be tested in three courts before adoption. Courts would not be held to a standard until that standard has been in place for two years.
The committee then went through the handout, Discussion of Performance Audit Measures, provided by Ms. Pettus.
Judge Barnett commented that either ‘measurements’ or ‘measures’ should be used – there should be consistency in the language.
Judge Buzzard asked how much of the process will be available to the public. Judge Sperline responded that the manual will be available on-line. He anticipates statewide reports will be available to the public, but individual courts will not be identified. It was noted that while we will be evaluating courts, not judicial officers, in small courts the judge is the court.
Judge Sperline commented that this committee’s job is to go through a set of performance audit measures that are ranked by a screening process and then decide which measures should be included as base measures.
Comments from the committee regarding screening criteria included:
Ms. Pettus suggested using the five points in Policy 3.1 as a template to look at screening criteria for the possible set of base measures.
Judge Sperline also suggested taking the following three points and fitting them into Policy 3.1 as subcategories:
Security – sub categorize under (safe) access;
Anti-bias – equality and freedom from bias work as concept – under respect; and
Integrity of outcomes/competence – fits under fairness.
After extensive discussion, the committee agreed they were comfortable with staff taking the first pass at recommending a set of base measures. The committee requested that for measures that staff believes should possibly be ruled out, the reason(s) for that recommendation should be included. To assist with their effort, an ad hoc advisory committee was established: Judge Anders, Judge Barnett, Ms. Bell, Ms. Eaton, and Mr. Hedlund will comprise the ad-hoc committee. A draft will then be distributed to the committee prior to the next meeting (possibly by the end of January).
The next meeting will be on March 4, 2005 at 9:00 a.m. in the new offices at SeaTac. The address is 18000 Pacific Hwy South, Suite 1106 (the “13 Coins” building across from the airport). Information regarding parking will be sent prior to the meeting.
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