Best Practices Committee
November 17, 2005
WELCOME AND INTRODUCTIONS
Judge Sperline called the meeting to order and asked that committee members introduce themselves to the group. Mr. Charles Benedict attended as an interested party; he's a member of the Public Trust & Confidence committee.
Due to the upcoming legislative session the next meeting date will not be until March 18, 2006 (not March 22 as noted on the agenda). That will begin our regular every other month meeting, with May 18 scheduled for the next meeting. Unless otherwise noted, all meetings will be at the AOC SeaTac facility.
Mr. Hall directed the committee to the draft of the Superior Court Attorney Survey in the meeting materials.
Ms. Piazza (AOC Research) said that she and Mr. Jeff Patnode have administered and discussed the survey with six attorneys. A Test Summary was provided to the committee (see attached) along with a table of Recommendations for Changes to Attorney Questionnaire. Ms. Piazza and Mr. Patnode felt it would be worthwhile replicating this process with the appellate survey.
Ms. Piazza then went through the table of recommendations, concentrating on the starred items (see attached).
Judge Sperline suggested designating the name of the facility on the questionnaire. Ms. Williams suggested there be a blank space for them to fill in the "courthouse you're most frequently in." It depends on how the test is administered, mailed to attorneys or in the hallways of the courthouse. If by mail, there could be a screening question asking which courthouse they practice in most often. A decision will be made when it is decided how the surveys will be administered.
Question 1: It was decided to change all of the survey's response options to Always; Usually (or Often); Sometimes; Rarely; Never. (The Not Applicable option will remain.)
Insert the word ‘adequate' after ‘There are.'
Question 2: There are varying levels of ADA compliance; facilities are required by law to have minimum standards. Attorneys may not be fully aware of what it means to be ADA compliant. The committee decided to remove this question.
Since Question 2 is being deleted, drop the "Security" category and move questions 3-5 under the "Facilities" category.
Question 14: It was noted that this question may be tainted by a recent ruling if it is conducted at the courthouse. The question won't change, but this may need to be taken in to consideration.
Questions 15 and 16: Break these out into two separate categories: Gender and Race/ Ethnicity.
Questions 18 - 23: Questions should be added to address victims in criminal cases and defendants.
Question 24: Change ‘orders' to ‘rulings.'
Question 25: Delete this question.
Question 26: Change to "The court adheres to established laws and the court rules."
It is important to have a court policies and court procedures question.
Add: "The court follows established policies and procedures."
Question 27: Change ‘quickly' to ‘promptly.'
Question 29: This is a very broad question; it is more a measure of the law than a court operation. It should be taken out of the Superior Court Survey, but rewritten and remain in the CLJ survey.
Question 30: Change to "The court efficiently uses court time."
Question 32: Delete "its."
Ms. Daniels expressed concerns regarding Questions 10 and 13 and whether it was appropriate for the judiciary to evaluate an office of the executive branch of government. A letter expressing this concern was given to Judge Sperline with a copy to the Chief Justice as Chair of the BJA. Following discussion it was determined that this issue should be forwarded to the BJA for further discussion.
After the corrections and changes are made to the questionnaires, they will be sent out to the committee for a final look. Then they will be run in pilot courts just as if we were doing a real audit.
When the pilot project is completed; responses can be examined to determine if some questions should be removed or modified. Will the information acquired benefit a court?
Staff would like the pilot courts to be represented on the Best Practices committee. Judge Sperline said Grant County will participate; Ms. Motyka requested a final questionnaire to take to her judges to see if Pierce County would participate; Ms. Williams said Seattle Municipal would participate; and Ms. Austin indicated Benton/Franklin would be willing to participate.
After discussing, it was determined that Judge Sperline will try to recruit a small, medium and a large court to participate.
Judge Schindler, Judge Tolman and Ms. Daniels volunteered at the last meeting to come up with questions to measure policies and procedures in effect for pro se litigants. They offered the following (draft) questions:
Note that the second question would not be applicable to the Court of Appeals' survey.
It was noted that pro se numbers are expanding and a pro se survey should be a stand alone survey; the survey should go to service providers (courthouse facilitators, pro bono bar associations, etc). Also, pro ses could be asked how they feel about the court experience.
NEXT MEETING DATE
March 16, 2006
Superior Court Attorney Survey
Process: We briefed each participant on the purpose of the survey and how it links to the BPC and the BJA. Each attorney then completed the survey with the majority taking approximately 6 to 7 minutes. After completing the survey, AOC staff reviewed the document in detail with each participant and received a variety of feedback which is summarized in the following sections.
Participants: AOC representatives, one BPC staff and a research analyst, met with 6 Thurston County Attorneys. BPC member John Gray provided the list of attorney testers.
Four of the six attorneys were male and two were female. Five of the six are in private practice and each handle a variety of cases in the Thurston County Superior Court to include family law, personal injury, probate, and criminal defense. Five of the six also practice in a court of limited jurisdiction on a regular basis.
When/Where: AOC staff met with each attorney at their respective offices. The interviews lasted between 30 and 60 minutes.
Attorney Participant Feedback
All of the attorneys reported that the survey is organized in an easy to understand format with simple language. Five of the six stated that if they were approached in a court house setting and asked to take the survey that they would likely be willing. Several also suggested their willingness would vary significantly depending on their schedule at the time. Several also stated that the survey took less time to complete than they had expected based on an initial examination of the document.
Several of the attorney's thought the response categories could illicit more accurate responses if they varied for certain questions.
Each participant agreed that the categories made sense and seemed to be comprehensive.
Several attorneys had feedback regarding the specific information that we are trying to elicit with certain questions. They also made reference to the non-specific nature of some terms and provided alternative language which may be more effective in getting the information that we want.
The specific recommended changes to the survey are detailed on the following pages and incorporate the feedback that was consistent across the participants and with design principals for effective surveys. If approved by the BPC, the revised survey will be sent out for review by the BPC members and discussed at our next meeting. We also recommend that we generalize the results of the superior court survey pre-tests to the survey for CLJs.
We believe it will be advantageous to complete additional attorney survey testing for the users of the appellate courts.
Note: Most recommendations are based on the feedback from the pretest. Some are based on basic principles of survey construction.
It would be helpful to target specific court facilities and calendars for distributing the surveys, in order to provide more context to the findings. We got a lot of feedback that responses would vary by court facility, as well as by case type.
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