Best Practices Committee
June 27, 2007
Judge Spector called the meeting to order. She began by congratulating Ms. Andra Motyka on her National Association of Court Managers Award of Merit which she will receive next month in Chicago. Ms. Motyka was recognized for leadership and excellence in modern judicial management.
Judge Spector continued by thanking Ms. Meagan Eliot for her hard work and dedication to the Best Practices Committee over the last year. Ms. Eliot’s last day with AOC will be June 29; she is leaving to continue her career in Los Angeles.
Judge Spector asked if there were any changes to the May 24, 2007 minutes. There were none.
Ms. Motyka made a motion to approve the minutes; the motion was seconded. The motion passed unanimously; with Judge Garrow abstaining.
Ms. Eliot said the intention was to do a Phase 1 review of caseload management measures. Instead she is requesting the two following actions.
#1 – Delay further testing on measures and recommend some data improvement measures with the new court management system project.
#2 – Identify the standards to use when this is revisited.
For superior courts, measurement of both clearance rate and time to disposition is straight-forward. However, time-to-disposition is limited to published case types.
Similar information is not available for the CLJ.
Ms. Eliot suggested the CLJ limitation is one of queries; Ms. Christopher interjected that the underlying data are also problematic. For example, case disposition has to be inferred from resolution of most-recently disposed issue. This is complex, and unlikely to yield reliable cross-court information. Furthermore, case closure awaits satisfaction of judgment.
Mr. Ponzoha, however, noted that good data are available for the COA.
Ms. Eliot stressed that superior court criminal and offender age-of-pending figures are distorted by inclusion of non-charges (search warrants, wiretaps, corruption cases, etc.), and that technical staff have apprised her there’s no way to separate them out. It was agreed testing on this measure be deferred to follow CMS improvements.
Disposition (clearance rates) is based on cases actually disposed, it has nothing to do with the larger, active caseload. Non-charges aren’t considered cases filed.
Mr. Hall said the new caseload management system (CMS) should be online in the next eight-nine months; there is a high degree of confidence in this new system. Many of the current data issues are not expected to be carried forth in the new system.
Staff needs a better set of standards to work with in the testing process; they should be meaningful, reasonable and understandable. Are these reasonable standards? Ms. Pettus provided background and said that in 1992 a staff person for the superior and courts of limited jurisdiction judges developed the time standards; these were addressed again in 1997. The current standards (page 695 in Court Rules) were developed by looking at the ABA time standards from the 1980s and the COSCA-adopted standards from 1983. There were approximately 10 other states that had developed standards at that time, these were also taken into consideration.
The resolution of a probate case is when a representative is appointed; nothing after that is counted. It was asked if the committee could recommend to BJA that these standards be looked at again; Mr. Hall responded that it would probably be sent back to this group to address. He said these standards were adopted as ‘advisory,’ and the committee should recognize that they were aspirational standards.
It is reasonable for this committee to conclude that the standards aren’t adequate and appropriate for our purposes. There are challenges with every measure – deciding what is good enough. Maybe part of the discussion with the BJA – when we’re at a point of discussing recommendations – is that we say it’s time to look at these advisory standards; remembering that threshold determinations will always be controversial.
How do we measure caseflow management? The superior courts vs the courts of limited jurisdiction – the statistics are going to look different. What are we looking at in comparison with these 11-year old standards? In the current CMS, how long does it take to dispose of a domestic violence case? Are those cases languishing? Judge Spector suggested picking a case type to have a healthy discussion about.
To make significant process we need additional information; put measures back in the development stage so we can look at these standards.
There was significant discussion that the Time Standards may need review and resetting. Mr. Hall will add the Best Practices Committee to a BJA agenda. He and Judge Spector will advise them that the committee is talking about these measures and let them know how the committee plans to proceed – he will ask the BJA for their approval for this plan.
Staff recommends a delay in further testing on this measure. Ms. Eliot said it became clear that we’re getting a set of attorney opinions; but when it comes to evaluating performance we don’t have the information to say how close their opinions are to how the court is actually performing.
There is a concern that we don’t have objective measures that correspond to the questions. For instance, if there is a negative response to Safety in court facilities, is the court doing all they can do? We will have to return to the court for additional information; which is not a good approach to doing a performance audit.
She recommends setting aside the attorney surveys – develop objective measures and decide what you’re going to use in a court performance. Then take another look at the attorney survey and decide which questions aren’t providing useful information. The attorney questions essentially asked for their opinions (facilities, demeanor, etc.).
The objective and subjective measures should be tied together as much as possible. Mr. Hall said there might be a misconception, once it’s out there; you have to look at it. We should only ask questions about what is actually being measured. We should come back to this at the end and see if there can be an alignment with objective measures.
It was questioned if the attorney survey should be used as a tool, not a measure of actual performance. Should this ultimately be a measure when we go out to a court? Maybe not a base measure, but an optional tool that a court might be interested in? As a performance auditor we would have an obligation to follow up with the court about the perception.
For questions such as “Does the court treat people with respect?” maybe this should be put at the end of the testing process; don’t survey subjective measures until all objective measures are finished; in order to capture a good test of a courts performance.
Mr. Hall said it is a valid result for this committee to reject a measure that has been tested. That’s what this process is about.
Justice Owens said this is one of the results of a subjective survey – wanted to be sure there was a sense of quality of justice – and that numbers don’t always tell the whole story. It doesn’t really tell you anything about the quality of the work on those cases.
Judge Spector said we need both (information and numbers), but the perception of fairness is being confused with the issue of quality.
Ms. Eliot and Mr. Hall suggest putting the attorney survey on hold, because they are subjective and don’t yield real guidance for improvement. They recommend revisiting the subjective measures after all objective standards have been developed. That might provide a gauge against which the subjective measures (attorney surveys, comity, etc.) can be interpreted.
Judge Spector said we will go forward with the next measure (finances, collections, etc.).
Justice Owens said that due to the committee meetings falling on Thursday’s (when the Supreme Court generally hears oral argument), there will not be a Supreme Court justice on the committee as her term ends this month. Justice Owens continued that she thought the committee has done very well working with very difficult subject areas.
Due to the upcoming change in staff, the next meeting time will be decided at a later date.
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