Best Practices Committee
May 24, 2007
Board for Judicial Administration
Judge Spector called the meeting to order. Judge Spector advised the committee that Ms. Meagan Eliot is leaving AOC to relocate to California. Ms. Eliot will continue with the committee through the June 27 meeting. Judge Spector acknowledged Ms. Eliot’s outstanding work on the Best Practices Committee.
Judge Spector asked if there were any changes to the October 23, 2006 minutes. There were none.
Ms. Motyka made a motion to approve the minutes; Judge Lucas seconded the motion. The motion passed unanimously.
The attorney survey is currently being tested in the Kitsap County District Court; it is also scheduled to be tested at the Snohomish County Superior Court. An appellate court has not yet been designated.
Judge Schindler said that Division III was not able to participate as they have a new clerk, and this process is time and labor intensive. Division II indicated they don’t currently have the time to devote to this process. Judge Schindler offered to take the request to Division I, but it wouldn’t be until the July meeting.
Ms. Eliot said that there is a timing issue. In order to follow the schedule the committee has adopted, the phase 2 review of the attorney survey measure should be discussed at the meeting following the June 27 meeting.
The question to the committee was if the appellate testing was necessary to review the measure since we will have testing results from Whitman, Kitsap and Snohomish counties.
After discussion, it was determined, and Judge Schindler agreed, that testing at the appellate level was not necessary. When the manual is completed, it can be noted if there is a difference in procedure/questions at the appellate level, and it is alright to make changes to accommodate this.
Ms. Eliot explained that peer reviews are conducted to ensure that performance audit services utilize a suitably designed internal quality control system that is operating effectively to provide reasonable assurance of compliance with Government Auditing Standards (also known as GAGAS). They are required once every three years to be in compliance with GAGAS.
Successful peer reviews are typically preceded by thoughtful planning in the agency that is being reviewed. The measure development process and the manual that is being produced will satisfy a significant portion of this planning process. The most common peer review findings should be considered as each measure is developed.
The first peer review would be done within three years of the first actual performance audit. This would be planned for in the development process.
Judge Spector and Mr. Hall have met with Linda Long of the State Auditor’s Office (SAO) to discuss the fact that AOC is developing standard court performance audit measures and procedures for future implementation by AOC. Mr. Hall added that it could be beneficial that the SAO sees that the Judicial Branch is being proactive on developing guidelines and standards for conducting performance audits. Also, the SAO might offer valuable information in following the GAGAS.
There was a question of who audits the SAO. Ms. Eliot responded that other states’ SAO’s do. This brings up the possibility that we might work with other state’s courts – specifically Minneapolis (MN) and Maricopa County (AZ), who are the only ones we’re aware of that are actively working on instituting performance audits. Although it would be more cost effective to work with our SAO, it would assure our independence to go outside and work with other courts.
Judge Spector and Mr. Hall would like the committee’s okay to continue having informal conversations with the SAO. They feel it is important to have discussions with people experienced with GAGAS (with which the committee has already said we should comply). They reiterated that these discussions would be to look at the procedures, not the findings.
Judge Lucas said that as long as the peer review doesn’t reach down to the audit site, only to AOC (who would be performing the audits), he does not object. If there was a negative finding, we need to be assured that the SAO would not step in and directly audit the courts.
At this point there was a general consensus of the committee that Judge Spector and Mr. Hall would continue their informal meetings with the State Auditor’s Office.
As part of the National Center for State Courts’ (NCSC) Trial Court Performance Standards (TCPS) measures, inventory procedures were developed to assess how well courts are assisting people who are financially disadvantaged in navigating the courts. The BPC subcommittee used this work, both the methodology and inventory checklist, as a starting point.
Subcommittee members met via conference call to discuss this measure. Significant input from legal aid representatives and recommendations from the subcommittee led to the revised methodology and inventory checklist that is now submitted to the committee for additional changes and consideration for approval to begin phase 1 testing. Several issues emerged that should be considered by the full committee before the measure is approved for pilot testing.
Discussion of measures of access to courts: financial, language and physical access; it would be unwieldy to discuss them all together.
There was a general consensus to table language access and physical access for now and add them to the list of potential base measures for formal review in the future.
The committee took the following actions (in bold) on the material based on staff recommendations.
Checklist of Court Activities to Promote Affordable Access to Justice (changes indicated below)
DISCUSSION: There was a lot of discussion centered around signage. Mr. Hall said we’re really interested in how easily things can be found once the courthouse is entered. AOC staff will need to determine if information is available; i.e., as security staff is often the first contact for visitors, do they know where to direct people.
Another item should be added to the audit instruction manual: whether there is an independent office of assigned counsel or if counsel is court-appointed. If a court is not responsible for the provision of public defender services, it should not be evaluated on those services.
There was a question of who will be performing the audits; staff responded that per General Rule 32, AOC would perform the audits (see below).
General Rule 32
Court Performance Audits
Pursuant to the provision of RCW Chapter 2.56 and
Ms. Eliot told the committee we are on schedule with the timeline they had approved.
There was general committee consensus that this measure, with noted changes, is approved to start testing this summer.
Mr. Hall reminded the committee of the BJA policy on conducting performance audits. Audits will be done at the request of a Presiding Judge or at BJA’s request; we will not solicit audits. If an audit is requested before all measures have been approved, AOC will do one to the best of their ability. He also reminded the committee that BJA would like to approve measures as they are completed, instead of waiting until they are all done.
Judge Spector thanked Judge Lucas for stepping in to help get the Snohomish County Superior Court on board to participate in the attorney survey this summer. This will be a web-only questionnaire; no hard copies will be sent out. Judge Lucas said Snohomish County was particularly sensitive to having a web-only survey; this was their preferred method.
The attorney survey for the Kitsap County District Court is completed. It was a combined web/paper survey. Ms. Eliot is working on the report, and it should be available to the committee after the June meeting.
Ms. Eliot said the response from the web survey was far superior to the amount of paper copies that came back in. She then gave an electronic demo to the committee of how the web survey works.
Ms. Eliot is working on the caseflow management measures. There are significant issues with the available data. The phase 1 test will be reviewed at the June meeting.
The next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, June 27, from 1:30 – 4:00 p.m. at the AOC SeaTac facility.
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