Long-range strategic planning and management for trial courts

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Long-range strategic planning and management for trial courts an interorganizational approach
Martin, John A
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xii, 201 leaves : ; 29 cm


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Criminal courts -- Administration -- United States ( lcsh )
Criminal justice, Administration of -- United States ( lcsh )
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )


Includes bibliographical references (leaves 180-201).
General Note:
Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree, Doctor of Philosophy, Public Administration.
General Note:
School of Public Affairs
Statement of Responsibility:
by John A. Martin.

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University of Colorado Denver
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Auraria Library
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LD1190.P86 1993d .M37 ( lcc )

Full Text
John A. Martin
B.A., Fort Lewis College, 1973
M.A., University of Colorado at Boulder, 1976
A thesis submitted to the
Faculty of the Graduate School of the
University of Colorado at Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy
Public Administration


1993 by John A. Martin
All rights reserved.

This thesis for the Doctor of Philosophy
degree by
John A. Martin
has been approved for the
Graduate School of Public Affairs
Anne N. Costain
Marianne Wesson

Martin, John A. (Ph.D., Public Administration)
Long-Range Strategic Planning and Management for Trial Courts: An
Interorganizational Approach
Dissertation directed by Associate Professor E. Sam Overman
This study examines the adequacy of contemporary approaches to
American trial court management in light of the rapidly changing demands
being placed on justice systems. The problem encompasses three components.
First, the study identifies .the types, magnitude, and consequences of problems
confronting trial courts today. Second, it describes and comments on the
adequacy of current court management approaches. Third, the study identifies
the potential components of an alternative interorganizational approach to court
management. The interorganizational approach reflects the new demands on
the courts resulting from changes in both their external and internal
The studys two methodological components are: (1) a multiple case
study of justice system operations in seven urban trial jurisdictions and (2) an

interpretation of the implications for justice systems of the broader social,
economic, political, and technological forces shaping todays urban trial court
Study findings show that it has only been within the last decade that
courts have been consistently and simultaneously confronted by the four-fold
threat of: (1) dramatic caseload increases; (2) increasingly complex caseloads;
(3) an increasingly more destitute and socially disenfranchised client
population; and (4) stagnant or diminishing resources. The findings also show
that the court management profession has been unable to keep up with many
of these changes primarily because its suggested responses to the problem are
generally limited to adding more resources or implementing assertive caseflow
management procedures. The study concludes that an alternative long-range
strategic planning based approach to court management would enable courts
to move beyond the inadequacies of todays dominant management
perspectives. An outline of the alternative approach is also presented.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates thesis.
I recommend its publication.

Introduction 1
Problem Statement 1
Description of the Problem 2
External Factors 3
Internal Factors 8
Need For New Management Approaches 10
Scope of the Study and Contents Overview 14
Introduction 17
Court Management Perspectives 18
Perspective 1: The Big Court Machine 20
Perspective 2: The Court As the Apex of a Hierarchy 24
Perspective 3: Courts and Interorganizational Networks 31
Chapter Summary: Accommodating Interorganizational Networks 40

Introduction 44
Design, Methods, and Data 45
Methodological Components 45
Data Collection 47
Analysis and Synthesis of Information from
Seven Jurisdictions 52
Statistical Profile of the Seven Study Jurisdictions 54
Introduction 62
Case Processing Time Correlates 63
The Problem of Delay 63
The Correlates of Delay 63
Issue and Problem Similarities and Differences
Among Seven Jurisdictions 69
Use of Goals 73
Leadership Styles 74
Use of Information 77
Communications 80
Judicial Responsibility and Commitment 83

Role of Administrative Staff
Caseflow Management Procedures 88
Accountability for Caseflow 89
Backlog Reduction 91
Education and Training 93
Technical Assistance, Management Improvement Strategies, and
Unresolved Issues 94
Introduction 98
Characteristics and Trends 101
Victimization Declines, but Law Enforcement
Activity Increases 102
Police Officers Are Safer Today Than They Were
in the Past 105
Influx of Drug Cases Changes the Focus of the
Justice System 106
Casual Drug Use Declines but Habitual Use
Remains High 108
Drugs and Crime Go Hand in Hand 109
There Are Very Different Types of Drug Offenders 111
Drug Crime Can Pay Well 114

There Is Increasing Violence Within the Drug Trade 117
Public Fear of Crime and Drug Use Continues
to Increase 118
"Get Tough" Political Rhetoric 122
Increasing Concentration of Crime and Crime Control 125
The Crime Wars Effects on the Courts and Justice Systems 129
Implications of Findings on Courts and Court Management 131
Overburdened Justice Systems 133
Increasing Power Disparity Between
Defense and Prosecution 139
Declining Judicial Discretion 141
Justice System Responses 146
Chapter Conclusion 149
Introduction 152
Scope and Emphasis 154
Components of the Interorganizational Approach 157
Step 1: Initiate and Agree on a Planning Process 160

Step 2: Identify Organizational Mandates, Missions,
Goals, and Stakeholder Expectations 166
Step 3: Develop a Comprehensive Vision for the Future 169
Step 4: Conduct Trends Analyses and
Construct Scenarios 170
Step 5: Conduct an Organizational Assessment 174
Step 6: Develop Management Strategies 175
Step 7: Implement Strategic Management 176
Step 8: Monitor, Evaluate, and Modify
Organizational Performance 178
Chapter Conclusion 178

3.1 Jurisdictions Examined in the Study 46
3.2 Workload 56
3.3 Calendar Type and Judicial Assignment Procedures 58
3.4 Filing to Disposition Civil Case Processing Time 59
3.5 Arrest to Disposition Criminal Case Processing Time 61
4.1 Average Felony Case Processing Days 68
5.1 US Crime Victimization Trends 1975 1989 103

3.1 Attributes Examined in a Caseflow Management Review 51
4.1 Ten Elements Identified As Being Common to Successful
Caseflow Management Programs 70
6.1 Long-Range Strategic Planning Process 159
6.2 Alternative Dispute Resolution and the Court:
A Strategic Issue Example 177

Problem Statement
The purpose of this study is to examine the adequacy of contemporary
approaches to American trial court management in light of the rapidly
changing demands being placed on justice systems. This general purpose
encompasses three components. First, the study will identify the types,
magnitude, and consequences of problems confronting trial courts today. The
identification of problems will focus on both problems coming from within the
internal court environment e.g., the increasing need for courts to work with
a variety of other justice system agencies to effectively process cases and
problems attributable to the external political, economic, and social
environments that surround the court and justice system. External problems
examined include factors which have contributed to the dramatic increases in
the types and number of demands being placed on courts, such as the war on
drugs, as well as factors that limit the justice systems capacity to meet

changing demands, such as stagnating revenues attributable to slow economic
growth and little support for adequate government spending.
Second, the study will describe and comment on the adequacy of
current court management approaches in light of todays problems. The
description of court management approaches examines the two dominant
traditional perspectives the big court machine and, the court as the apex of
a judicial system hierarchy -- as well as an emerging perspective which I have
labeled the interorganizational approach.
Third, the study will identify how the interorganizational approach can
be improved in light of the problems and the inadequacies of current
approaches. The refined interorganizatinal approach reflects the new demands
on the courts resulting from changes in both their internal and external
environments, and accommodates the increasing need for courts to work
closely with a variety of justice system agencies.
Description of the Problem
The economic, social, political, and technological trends shaping the
nation are placing unprecedented demands on its trial courts. These forces of
change also foreshadow future demands that will differ substantially from

those of the past (see generally, Dator and Rodgers, 1991). Still, despite the
potentially dramatic consequences of trends shaping both demands on a court
and a courts capacity to meet demands, few trial courts are equipped to
influence or respond to the forces of change as they would prefer to.
More specifically, a combination of external forces and internal
organizational forces are changing the ways courts need to do their work.
External forces have created tremendous pressure for courts to adapt
immediately to ever-expanding and increasingly complex caseloads. For
example, as described in detail below, economic restructuring, the emergence
of new forms of environmental protection, and other economic forces, have
contributed to increased litigation. Similarly, internal organizational forces
have highlighted the need for courts to examine the tools they use to meet
demands and to define more clearly their role within the larger justice system.
For example, increasing numbers of indigent people appearing in court have
contributed to rapid growth of public defender offices which, in turn, have
resulted in the need for greater efforts to coordinate the work of public
defender staff and other court practitioners.
External factors. Economic globalization is one important external
force or trend. Examples of economic changes affecting the courts include,

among others, the increasing integration of American business into the global
economy, and the resulting restructuring of the economy and growth of its
service and technological sectors. One outcome of these changes has been a
higher rate of business formation (and failure) than occurred in previous
decades. In 1950, 93,000 corporations were created in the U.S. By the end
of the 1980s, the nation was adding nearly 1.3 million new businesses each
The impact of these changes on the courts has been to increase civil
court litigation and create new forms of litigation (see e.g., Bluestone and
Harrison, 1982; Brown and Pechman; Reich, 1991). Trial court civil caseloads
increased by 30 percent between the mid-1980s and 1990, even though the
total U.S. population increased by only 5 percent over the same period (see
Rottman and Osterman, 1991).
Concern about the environment is a second trend. Increased public
concern about the degradation of the environment and the long term
consequences of past industrial practices have resulted in numerous regulations
and increased litigation. The increased litigation has created new demands on
local justice systems that sometimes differ both qualitatively and quantitatively
from the more routine demands of the past (see e.g., Garson, 1988; Howard,

1985). For example, courts are asked to stop development because of alleged
violations of environmental protection provisions. In addition, an increased
emphasis on the safety of the work place has led to increased litigation.
Asbestos use-related cases, for example, have introduced a new type of
exceedingly complex and time sensitive case to court dockets. These cases
pose special problems for already overburdened courts located in World War
II ship building centers such as Oakland and San Francisco, California.
Other resource and environmental conflicts likely to intensify and result
in increased litigation during the 1990s include: (1) balancing public land use
among logging, mining, grazing and different types of recreational needs; (2)
preventing agricultural and industry-induced water contamination; (3)
developing environmentally sound methods for transporting and disposing of
hazardous waste; (4) protecting animals, including large predators, that
historically have been seen as threats to livestock; (5) restricting development
near state, federal, and local government park land and (6) distributing the
costs for cleaning up the residue of past environmental abuses (see Hays,
Changing demographics provide a third source of important trends
shaping the demand on courts. Changes in divorce, marriage, and labor force

participation rates, migration patterns, and lifestyle preferences, along with
population aging, have substantially altered the traditional American family
and resulted in dramatic changes in the appropriate role of courts in family
policy (see e.g., Coccoran et al., 1984; Diamond, 1983; Newman, 1988;
Weitzman, 1985; and Zinn, 1989). Traditional families of two parents and one
or more children decreased from 31 to 26 percent of all U.S. households
during the 1980s. By contrast, the number of families headed by unmamed
men and women increased during the same period, and by 1990 they
accounted for nearly 25 percent of all households.
Also during the 1980s, the labor force participation rate among women,
income and wealth disparity among different population groups, migration
from urban and rural areas to suburbs, and the rewards for having an
education, all increased substantially. Differences in migration and birthrate
trends among American ethnic groups suggest that one third of all American
children will belong to a minority group by the year 2000 even though
minorities will not account for one third of the entire population until at least
the year 2030 (see generally, Waldrop and Exter, 1991).
These social and demographic changes have forced justice systems in
many jurisdictions to move well beyond comfortable and traditional roles. For

example, courts increasingly must deal with complicated family issues
involving individuals not related by blood. They are also being asked to
accommodate the language and cultural needs of litigants and to address
complicated social problems that were once the responsibility of other
institutions (see e.g., Dator and Rodgers, 1991: 13-20).
Changing crime patterns are also important. The complexion of crime
in America is changing. Victimization rates from crimes against households
and crimes against persons have declined since the mid-1970s for the nation
generally. They likely will continue their downward trend as the size of the
crime-prone young adult population continues to shrink.
Decreases in the overall crime rate, however, mask changes that have
occurred in the types of crime and in crime rates for different strata within the
population. Even as violent crime in the U.S. has decreased, for example,
other types of crime (e.g., pension abuse, insurance fraud, tax evasion,
professional malpractice) have increased. Similarly, while total crime against
the elderly decreased 33 percent between 1975 and 1988, the chances for
young black men to be crime victims increased and are likely to continue to
exceed greatly those of non-black Americans.
Finally, evolving law enforcement policies and procedures are changing

the demands on courts. During the past decade, the number of law
enforcement personnel in the U.S. increased by nearly 30 percent, while the
tax dollars dedicated to police, courts, and corrections nearly doubled. As one
result, felony caseloads have nearly doubled in the typical trial court, with
courts in urban areas experiencing even more dramatic caseload increases.
Drug cases in particular have increased burdens on already busy courts
and justice systems. The recent promulgation of tough drug laws in many
states and changes in precedents regarding standards for obtaining evidence
and permissible search and seizure practices, promise even greater increases
for many trial courts in the future.
Internal factors. Courts have become part of a comprehensive justice
system and must operate in a complex interorganizational network. These
interorganizational networks usually include, in addition to the court, a
prosecutors office, a clerks office, a public defenders office and other
indigent defense providers, private attorneys, a probation unit, a jail, a victim-
witness program, social service agencies, a variety of police agencies, an
alternative dispute resolution program, and perhaps a pretrial service program.
These agencies are not necessarily under the direct control of any other agency
and, therefore, are nominally independent.

The following features in particular highlight the interdependence of
justice system organizations, of which the courts are a part: (1) no one
organization can function effectively without the cooperation of the others; (2)
local legal culture and implicit negotiated orders are likely to be determinants
of performance which are as important as the formal rules, procedures, and
other traditionally recognized attributes of organizational structure, and; (3)
decision making is usually diffuse and decentralized e.g., local police and
other law enforcement representatives determine who will and will not be
arrested. Often district attorneys determine the formal charges brought against
the accused with little or no direct judicial guidance and public defenders often
determine what is an acceptable deal. Pretrial release and probation officials,
and even private bondsmen often determine who will and will not be released
from confinement.
In addition, (4) informal practices, as much as the official policies that
supposedly regulate the performance of judicial system actors, often create the
essential information that will be used for case processing decisions, and; (5)
many disputes are essentially resolved without direct, formal court or judicial
intervention. Often a court or judge does not make the critical decisions
which determine a case outcome. For example, in many criminal cases the

prosecutors decision regarding what is an acceptable plea bargain determines
how the case will be resolved even though the court must formally accept plea
The primary implication of the reality that courts are part of an
interorganizational network is that the scope of management efforts must be
expanded to include other organizations in the justice system. That is, in order
to know the court, its capacity, and the demands placed on it, one also needs
an understanding of the composition and general operations of the
interorganizational network and the forces which affect components of that
The need for new management approaches. Prior to the 1980s, courts
also were confronted by caseload increases and limited resources. It has only
been within the last decade, however, that courts have been consistently and
simultaneously confronted by the four-fold threat of: (1) dramatic caseload
increases; (2) increasingly complex caseloads; (3) an increasingly more
destitute and socially disenfranchised client population; and (4) stagnant or
diminishing public resources. The court management profession has been
unable to keep-up with many of these changes primarily because its suggested
responses to the problem are generally limited to adding more resources or

implementing assertive caseflow management procedures.
Increasing court delay is perhaps the most visible indicator of the
failure to keep-up with changing demands. An adequate response to case
processing time delay continues to elude courts across the United States
generally but especially general jurisdiction state trial courts located in urban
areas. A recent comprehensive study of twenty-six urban trial courts
undertaken by the National Center for State Courts reported that median time
from case filing to disposition for civil cases ranged from about six months in
a few of the relatively faster courts to well over eighteen months in relatively
slower courts, while median time across the courts was about one year (333
days). It also revealed that even though median time from arrest to disposition
across the courts studied was 119 days, felony case processing times of more
than six months and even more than one year were common in many courts.
Moreover, none of the courts studied met American Bar Association Standards
stipulating that only two percent of a courts felony cases should take more
than 180 days to be processed.
These figures are especially disturbing when it is acknowledged that
less than 5% of these cases went to trial. The vast majority were either plea
bargained, settled, dismissed, or disposed of by arbitration (Goerdt, 1989: 12,

58-60). For at least a decade similar findings have been reported in
examinations of caseflow in state and federal, trial and appellate, courts (see
e. g., Chapper et al., 1984; Church et al., 1978b; Flanders, 1980; Friesen et al.,
1978; Martin and Prescott, 1981a; Neubauer et al., 1981; Posner, 1985; Weller
et al., 1982a).
Still, the specter of court delay is especially acute now as justice
systems grapple with the unprecendentedly rapid and sizeable caseload
increases accompanying a current national crusade -- the war on drugs (see
Martin and Geordt, 1989). Today courts are being pressured to do something
about a complex social, political, and policy nightmare. The heat is on courts
to somehow help solve what is popularly seen as an encompassing societal
evil. And they are being asked to help confront this evil largely by improving
their administrative efficiency (see Martin, 1990).
Court delay, then, is much more than a statistical curiosity or a routine
administrative problem waiting to be solved by practitioners and academics.
Court delay is a public policy issue that affects fundamental aspects of
individuals lives as well as the effectiveness of organizations and institutions.
For example the process of litigation itself regardless of substantive outcome
may alter permanently the lives of the parties directly involved in a dispute

as well as other members of society. Courts often determine irrevocably
whether a person will be compensated for injury or loss, or released from
confinement or continued in incarceration. Courts also help to determine the
direction and scope of important public policy. When the resolution of
disputes is delayed, lives may be disrupted while individuals and society,
unable because of delay to plan confidently for the future, await the final
disposition of cases (see e.g., Martin and Prescott, 1981a).
In addition, court observers have shown that court delay: (1) leads to
a system of justice more prone to error; (2) jeopardizes sixth amendment
guarantees to a speedy trial (Katz et al., 1972: 35); (3) erodes public
confidence not only in courts but in government generally (Mahoney, Sarat,
and Weller, 1978; Martin and Weller, 1979); (4) contributes to a judicial
process which frequently leaves litigants feeling confused, helpless, and
dissatisfied, and; (5) may force plaintiffs to forego a trial altogether by
prolonging cases to such an extent that the financial and emotional costs of
continuing the case are greater than the money a litigant might receive by
winning the case (Weller, Martin, and Ruhnka, 1982a: 151).
Collectively, then, observers have emphasized that court delay
compromises the quality of what has traditionally been recognized as

American justice. The speedy resolution of controversies is a fundamental
societal goal which with alarming frequency is not being met.
Scope of the Study and Contents Overview
As noted previously the study includes three primary components: (1)
a description of the sources, magnitude, and implications of the demands
confronting courts; (2) an examination of three court management perspectives
and the adequacy of the perspectives in light of the demands confronting
courts today, and (3) a description of an alternative court management
perspective. Information for the study was obtained from a comparative case
study of justice system operations in seven United States state court trial court
jurisdictions. Also, the court and general organization management and
planning literature has been used throughout the study.
A review of the descriptive and prescriptive content of the two
management perspectives that dominate contemporary court management
thinking the big court machine and the court as the apex of a justice system
hierarchy along with the rudimentary characteristics of an emerging
interorganizational court management perspective, are presented in Chapter 2.
The review of court management theory reveals that three tensions or

fundamental issues are raised but not adequately addressed by contemporary
court management thinking. These three unresolved tensions are: (1)
expectations for hierarchy v. a practical need for extensive anti-hierarchical
cooperation; (2) the role of courts as both dispute resolvers and justice system
regulators, and (3) the need for interorganizational coordination v. traditional
expectations for separation of powers between the judicial and executive
branches of government.
A description of the study design and methods, and the characteristics
of the seven courts used in the comparative case study, are presented in
Chapter 3. The description of the study design and methods includes a review
of the types of data collected and how they were synthesized, while the
description of the seven study courts includes a statistical profile of each
courts size and type of jurisdiction, workload and resources, case mix, and
case processing time.
A review of findings from the seven court case study are presented in
Chapter 4. This includes an examination of the issue and problem similarities
and differences among the seven courts with respect to their use of goals,
leadership styles, use of information, communications, judge and attorney
support and commitment, role of administrative staff, caseflow management

procedures, backlog reduction procedures, and education and training
mechanisms. The findings presented in Chapter 4 also include a review of six
problems that emerged from the analysis but remain unresolved. These issues
are how to: (1) move beyond the court leadership when developing and
implementing court improvement strategies; (2) accommodate non-court actors
in the justice system; (3) accommodate interest groups and the public; (4) be
future oriented; (5) link system level analysis and individual performance, and
(6) link general improvement strategies to specific actions and performance.
A review of findings from an assessment of the broader external
environment that shapes the demands on courts, and limits potential responses
to demands, are presented in Chapter 5. The trends reviewed include
victimization and law enforcement patterns, the war on drugs, public attitudes
about crime and crime control, and political responses to public expectations.
Finally, the components of an alternative approach to conventional
court management and planning, is presented in Chapter 6, the study
conclusion. The alternative approach focuses on how unaddressed problems
and issues might be addressed, and outlines an eight step long-range strategic
planning process that courts might use to move beyond todays dominant
management perspectives.

This chapter provides a general and comprehensive yet succinct
description of court management perspectives. It describes the world-views
of the two most prevalent approaches to court management the big court
machine and the court as the apex of a judicial system hierarchy and the
elements and structure of an interorganizational management approach. The
alternative interorganizational approach incorporates findings from recent
research into the broader court management tradition.
Three themes are found throughout the presentation. First, within the
judicial system there is a tension between expectations for a hierarchy among
organizations and the need for extensive interorganizational networking.
Second, there is a tension between expectations that the court should be the
preeminent impartial, dispassionate, dispute resolving organization within the
judicial system and at the same time also be the preeminent administrative

body responsible for overseeing and regulating the entire system. Third, there
is a tension between the need for an integrated administrative justice system
and the need to maintain a separation of power between the judicial and
executive branches of local government.
Court Management Perspectives
By now it is hardly a secret that how one sees the judicial system
or sees any organization has a great impact on how one decides to manage
it (Bolman and Deal, 1982; Harmon and Mayer, 1986; Scott, 1987; Starling,
1982). There is a strong relationship between perceptions of what courts are
and beliefs about how they should be managed. Moreover perceptions of what
courts are and how they should be managed are influenced by more general
beliefs about organizations and management. In short, perceptions of courts
are influenced by the broader fields of organizational theory and management
(see e.g., Friesen et al., 1971; Gallas, 1976; Saari, 1982).
Contemporary court management approaches tend to reflect two
dominant perspectives. In the first perspective, the court is one big
self-contained organization, a big machine, much like other organizations
except for a few outstanding peculiarities. In particular courts are

bureaucracies which differ from other organizations largely because judges are
autonomous and independent. The principal management task in the big
machine perspective is to maintain courts as a forum for settling disputes when
attorneys are ready. This view has been labeled the old conventional wisdom
(see e.g., Church, 1982; Gallas, 1976). Much of this first perspective is
grounded in what is routinely referred to as the classical and neo-classical
schools (Harmon and Mayer, 1986) or scientific management and structural
schools of organization and management theory (e.g., Appleby, 1949; Fayol,
1949; Gulick and Urwick, 1937; Simon, 1946, 1976; Taylor, 1947; Weber,
In contrast, in the second perspective, the judicial system is composed
of one preeminent organization, the court, somehow located amidst but also
at the apex of a powerful network of organizations and interest groups (see
e.g., Berkson et al., 1977; Gilmore, 1982; Jackson, 1982; Jacob, 1983; Martin
and Prescott, 1980; Sipes, 1980; Solomon, 1987). Much of the second
perspective is grounded in more recent systems and behavioral theories (e.g.,
Argyris, 1957, 1983; Bennis, 1966; Buckley, 1967; Follett, 1942; Galbraith,
1973; Gawthrop, 1984; Katz and Kahn, 1978; Mayo, 1933; McGregor, 1967;
Mintzberg, 1973, 1979; Pfeffer and Salancik, 1978; Thompson, 1967; Von

Bertalanffy, 1968). For example as will be shown in detail later in this
chapter, the second dominant court management perspective, reflecting systems
theory, sees the court as part of a dynamic justice system and also, reflecting
later human relations theory, emphasizes the importance of informal behavior
in shaping performance. However, as also will be shown soon, this second
perspective also carries a substantial legacy from the first perspective.
After the big machine and hierarchical-judicial system perspectives are
described, a third court management perspective that attempts to refine the two
dominant perspectives is presented. This third perspective, which has been
labeled interorganizational court management, stresses the difficult role of the
court as one organization, rather than the preeminent organization, within a
complex judicial network. It emphasizes the evolving role of the court, as
well as other judicial organizations, in an increasingly complex trial
jurisdiction environment.
Perspective 1: The Big Court Machine
The big-machine perspective sees courts as perhaps complex
self-sufficient machines but nonetheless machines that can work. Courts can
operate efficiently, but only if they are engineered or structured properly,

maintained adequately, and overseen or monitored appropriately (James, 1967;
Jones, 1965; Katz et al., 1972; Ziesel et al., 1959).
Proper structuring of the court machine is achieved by first establishing
formal work units such as divisions, offices and bureaus, and subsequently
assigning resources, such as positions, equipment, and other tangible things,
to these units. This assignment of resources is ongoing and therefore
somewhat flexible. It is done by budgeting, usually annual budgeting.
Structuring the court organization in this perspective also occurs by
institutionalizing the supposedly universal principles of organization such as
maintaining: (1) a division of labor, e.g., judges decide cases, lawyers present
arguments, clerks file papers, typists type, administrators review budgets and
do not interfere with judges; (2) specialization or clear division of functions,
e.g., there are civil judges and there are criminal judges; (3) one chain of
command, that is, one line of authority; (4) stability of tenure; and (5)
responsibility that does not exceed authority, e.g., should arbitrators really be
making these types of decisions?
Adequately maintaining the big court machine is primarily a question
of fuel: are there enough resources to keep the machine chuming-out products?
Can it keep chuming-out case dispositions steadily? Similarly, monitoring the

big court machine focuses on determining the ratio between the number of
products (case dispositions) produced and the amount of resources required to
manufacture them: do we have enough resources to handle our workload
efficiently? The essential task of management in the court as a big machine
perspective, then, is making sure the machine is setup properly. It should be
orderly, well-structured, and efficient. Maintenance and monitoring are not
incidental but they are considerably less demanding management tasks. They
should flow more or less automatically from the well structured court machine.
The perspective stresses that the court exercises great control over its own
activities and workload but that it does not initiate that workload. Instead,
when lawyers indicate that a case is ready to be heard, it is put at the
beginning of the production line to be sent through the big machine.
Nonetheless, even though this perspective stresses an assertive
management role in constructing the machine and a less assertive role
thereafter, it recognizes that the machine can be broken. But it can be fixed
too. The machine is broken if it is not working efficiently, that is, it is broken
if it is requiring too many resources to produce too few products. Delay is
one indicator of a broken machine. There are two general approaches for
fixing the big machine.

First, the machine can be fixed by being restructured. Some have
labeled, derogatorily, this approach tinkering, or in the court management
field, reform by the quick fix (Feeley, 1983; Nimmer, 1983; Ryan et al.,
1981). Often this type of reform is done either by implementing new rules
and standard operating procedures, or by reorganizing. Sometimes both
responses are tried simultaneously. Second, if the machine is broken it can be
fixed by giving it more resources. This obviously was, and frequently still is,
the predominant response to fixing the big machine.
The metaphor of the court as a big machine is no longer popular with
management theorists. Later, in the next section, a review of the content of
other more recent perspectives will reveal perceived weaknesses in this old
conventional wisdom that the new conventional wisdom attempted to address.
However, note now that critics repeatedly charged that management
approaches based on a big machine view of organizations simply did not work
(see e.g., Argyris, 1957; Benrtis, 1967; Cyert and March, 1963). For example,
Church et al. (1978a, 1978b) found that courts that more expeditiously
processed their caseloads were not necessarily those with more resources
dedicated to operating the big machine (see also Martin and Prescott, 1980,
1981b; Galanter, 1983). In general, it was found that big-machine

organizations were not effective or efficient, let alone supportive of the people
who worked in them or responsive to the public they were to serve (Gawthrop,
1984: 39-45).
Still, many court practitioners apparently have not been convinced that
new management perspectives should replace big machine thinking. Often,
similar to their compatriots in other organizations, they fall back on traditional
big machine appropriate management dogma (see e.g., Shorris, 1984; Yates,
1985). Without involving other judges, staff, and key agencies, often chief
judges continue to propose solving the delay problem largely by drafting and
publishing a few well-written court rules specifying time limits and
procedures, or by adding judges, prosecutors, and defenders. However, rarely
is pure big machine thinking found today. Instead, many practitioners have
taken the big court machine and placed it within a bigger, broader and more
complex environment They have made the court part of a system. This
system component is the innovative foundation of the second dominant court
management perspective.
Perspective 2: The Court As the Apex of a Hierarchy
A second dominant court management perspective acknowledges the

important roles within the judicial system played by other organizations and
parties that interact with the court. Here the court is seen as the apex of a
complex and dynamic judicial system composed of numerous organizations
(see e.g., Feeney, 1985; Pullinger, 1985; Saari, 1982). Along with the court,
other organizations that make-up the judicial system include a variety of local
police agencies as well as some type of a state police force, a prosecutors
office, a public defenders office, private attorneys, a probation unit, a jail, a
victim-witness program, social service agencies, and perhaps a pretrial service
program (Eisenstein and Jacob, 1976; Jahnige and Goldman, 1976).
Although each of these organizations is not under the direct formal
control of any other agency, and thus is nominally independent, this
perspective nonetheless stresses their interdependence because, together, they
form an integrated system (see Feeney, 1985: 17; Nimmer, 1978: 26-47).
Each organization within the system can not function effectively, without the
cooperation of other organizations. Because of this massive interdependence,
procedural and policy changes by one inter-organizational partner can greatly
affect all partners. The entire system will be affected, for example, if judges
alter continuance policies, or prosecutors change plea offer guidelines, or
defense attorneys modify plea acceptance standards, or probation workers

revamp background report procedures.
Moreover, recognition that the judicial system functions within an
external environment that includes powerful interest groups is another
important part of this perspective. The judicial system is surrounded by a vast
external environment composed of litigants, politicians, interest groups and the
general public (see e.g., Corsi, 1984: 304-306; Jahnige and Goldman, 1976).
The job of the system is to convert legal disputes, the demands or inputs of
the environment into disposition, that is to create outputs. Decisions by
officials about what to do with cases convert these inputs to outputs ( see e.g.,
Sheldon, 1974: 164-200).
In addition, the hierarchical-system perspective acknowledges that
formal rules and procedures, and other structuring mechanisms, along with
adequate resources are important contributors to organizational performance.
But unlike the big machine view, it indicates that these structural/institutional
attributes are not necessarily the primary let alone sole determinants of
organizational performance. Instead it emphasizes the importance of informal
practices and practitioner incentives, norms, and expectations as major
contributors to performance (see e.g., Bolman and Deal, 1982: 76-81; Harmon
and Mayer, 1986: 213-225; Resnik, 1984; Rosenberg, 1981; Scott, 1987:

53-57). Contemporary court management recognizes the power of local legal
cultures in particular (Church, 1982, 1985; Neubauer et al., 1981; Nimmer,
1976; Sherwood and Clarke, 1981; Zaffarano, 1985).
The characteristics described above reflect the system and behavioral
theory components of the hierarchical-system court perspective. However, as
noted previously, the hierarchical-system perspective also carries a substantial
legacy from traditional structural/institutional or even scientific management
organizational theory. Even though the hierarchical-system perspectives
description of the judicial world for the most part is system and behavioral
theory based, much of its prescription for how-to-manage that reality is not.
Instead, structural/scientific management notions ground much of the
prescriptive content of contemporary judicial management.
In particular the judicial system is to be managed largely as if it were
a perhaps complex but nonetheless a single, comprehensive, unified hierarchy.
It is often treated as if the system can be managed by a management hierarchy
which establishes and maintains an elaborate functional specialization and
separation of tasks among component organizations. A management hierarchy
orders both the structure and activity of the judicial system. For example,
structurally the management hierarchy emphasizes the division of the judicial

system into subunits such as those noted in the introduction to this section.
It stresses the distribution or parceling out of things, such as responsibility,
power, status, compensation, or authority, among units within the system
(Anthony, 1965). The management hierarchy also emphasizes ordering or
structuring organizations within the system along variations in quantity more
authority, responsibility, power, compensation, and so on (see Graham and
Hays, 1986; Martin and Overman, 1988). Also, the management hierarchy
orders the judicial system by different types of managerial activity.
Recently some court reformers have called for what is essentially a
redistribution of system-wide managerial activity within the judicial system.
The court management literature increasingly has stressed that the court should
be responsible for moving cases, that is, that the court should be responsible
for monitoring and insuring timely caseflow (see e.g., Aikman et al., 1980;
Boyum, 1979; Friesen, 1984). At least implicitly this caseflow management
literature is embracing a hierarchical management perspective. Essentially, it
indicates that the court is in the best position to control caseflow because it is
the most prestigious organization within the system and the single agency with
ultimate formal decision making authority. Moreover, the literature assumes
that even where the court does not have formal authority, it can exercise

indirect authority by virtue of its central position within the system. At the
very least the implicit assumption here is that the court can set system wide
policy, that the court can set the rules of the game, and that other agencies and
parties will play by those rules.
The prescriptive or management content of recent court management,
in contrast to its descriptive content, suggests that the court alone represents
the upper tier of a largely two-tiered hierarchy. The court is the relatively
small apex of a hierarchical judicial system. It retains far more formal
authority, and now informal authority too, as well as responsibility and status,
than do other organizations within the judicial system. All other organizations
within the system, regardless of how the system is formally structured,
primarily because of the distribution of management activity, are functionally
subordinate to the court. Combined, these other organizations form the second
subordinate tier of a hierarchical judicial system. Paradoxically, for there to
be efficient case processing hierarchy remains desirable because there is an
extensive functional interdependence among independent organizations within
the judicial system. In short, much of the prescriptive praxis of the
hierarchical-systems perspective simply does not match or fit its descriptive
content The merging of a systems theory based description of the judicial

system and a structural/scientific management prescription, contributes to three
tensions within contemporary court administration. First, as shown above,
there is a tension between ideologically based expectations for organizational
hierarchy and the need for extensive anti-hierarchical interorganizational
Second, there is a tension between expectations that the court should
serve as the preeminent dispute resolving agent in the judicial system and also
be the preeminent regulator of administrative behavior within that same
system. Potential conflict or tension between these two roles is ignored.
Decision-making, dispute-resolving, authority is reserved solely for judges.
Attorneys and other judicial actors provide information in a form which will
help judges do their important work. Similarly, the perspective assumes that
the structure of the judicial system, the courts formal authority, and the
judges prestige will enable the court to manage the entire judicial process.
Third, there is a tension between the need for a coordinated
administrative justice system and traditional expectations of the need to
maintain a separation of power between the judicial and executive branches
of local government. Too much centralized administration would jeopardize
a crucial balance of powers.

Adequately accommodating these three tensions is one important task,
likely the most important task, now confronting contemporary court
management. The interorganizational perspective presented in the next section
is offered as a starting point for developing court management perspectives for
better accommodating these tensions.
Perspective 3: Courts and Interorganizational Networks
In many ways the interorganizational perspective of the judicial system
is similar to the hierarchical-systems perspective. This reflects the many
system and behavioral theory elements common to both perspectives
descriptions of the judicial system. However, as is not the case in the
hierarchical-system perspective, here the court is seen as but one organization
in a multi-organizational system. Even though the court does have special
responsibilities for coordinating the system, it is not the preeminent
organization within the system. Moreover, by emphasizing the courts
coordinating role rather than its preeminence, the interorganizational
perspective recognizes that there can be considerable goal conflict among the
many actors involved in the judicial network. Prosecutors, for example might
be most concerned about maintaining sentence severity while individual judges

might stress the traditional role of conducting trials with little if any
expectation that they will manage the docket. Public defenders might be most
interested in having enough time to interview parties and witnesses while
sheriffs might be most interested in maintaining relatively smaller and less
explosive jail populations. As will be shown later, the courts role becomes
that of a facilitator of common direction despite the retention of independent
goals among organizations within the judicial network.
A micro level examination of routine criminal case processing in the
typical urban trial court, emphasizes the network rather than hierarchical nature
of task sequencing in the judicial system. Much of the need for this
networking reflects the complexity of modem case processing. There are
many steps required in processing even routine cases. The actors involved in
a case are many, as are the types and sources of information needed to move
a case along these numerous steps in the process. Numerous too are the
potential de jure case decision-makers. For example, local police and other
law enforcement representatives determine who will and will not be arrested.
Pretrial release and probation officials, and even private bondsmen often
determine who will and will not be released from confinement. Sheriffs, in
their assessments of who should receive priority in crowded jails also might

be involved in determining who will and will not be released from
confinement. Often DAs determine the formal charges brought against the
accused with little or no direct judicial guidance. PDs often determine what
is an acceptable deal. Moreover, plea bargaining coupled with the increasing
use of mandatory sentences in many jurisdictions essentially leaves the
determination of punishment up to parties negotiating plea agreements. Also,
informal practices as much as the official policies that supposedly regulate the
performance of judicial system actors often create the essential information
that will be used for case processing decisions.
One obvious result of this complexity is the potential for considerable
case processing time delay. It also generates considerable doubt that the
actions of all these actors and agencies could be effectively controlled by a
central authority using traditional hierarchical oriented management. Instead
of single centralized authority, the interorganizational perspective assumes that
there is no single focal or preeminent organization within the system.
Different organizations within the system will be more or less influential at
one time or another depending on the particular requirements of individual
cases, the position or stage where a case is located within the judicial process,
and the expectations of the local legal culture. The interorganizational

perspective, for example, acknowledges that in many urban jurisdictions the
pace of criminal litigation, especially during early case processing stages,
largely will be determined by the DAs office. Thus to a large extent the pace
of litigation will be determined by how quickly the DAs representatives gather
incident and defendant background information, assess their chances for
conviction, and complete the numerous other tasks which lead to a judicial
system or network decision in the form of a plea offer. Structural,
hierarchically determined preeminence, that is, who supposedly formally
controls caseflow, is not stressed in the interorganizational perspective.
Instead, the interorganizational perspective emphasizes that all network
participants will influence case processing but none will control it.
Also, the interorganizational perspective explicitly acknowledges that
in urban trial court jurisdictions, many disputes are resolved without direct
court intervention. Often a court does not make the critical decisions which
determine a case outcome. For example, the interorganizational perspective
acknowledges that in many criminal cases the prosecutors decision regarding
what the accused will be prosecuted for, along with the defenses determination
of what is an acceptable plea offer, determines how the case will be resolved
(see e.g., Alschuler, 1968, 1975, 1976, 1979). Nonetheless, as will be

described in detail in the next section, in the interorganizational perspective the
court must be an instrumental force in facilitating development of plea
standards that balance both the publics interest and the numerous interests of
participants in the judicial network. And the court still must formally accept
plea bargains. Similarly, in many civil cases, bargaining and negotiating
among the disputants and their attorneys, rather than a judicial decision,
determine case outcomes (see e.g., Kritzer, 1981; Weller et al., 1981, 1982b).
The interorganizational approach provides three primary prescriptive
components for judicial system management. The first essentia^ prescriptive
component of the interorganizational perspective is the assumption that no
single agency can or should attempt to control the entire judicial network.
Instead of a preeminent organization or agency, case sequencing or caseflow
is the focus of management activity within the judicial network. It is the cable
that links all organizations within the interorganizational network. Each of the
network partners must actively participate in developing and implementing
strategies for moving cases along.
Moreover, taking seriously the notions of local legal culture offered
over the past decade or so, the interorganizational perspective acknowledges
that the particular form of this caseflow management is dependent on the

implicit and explicit, formal and informal, agreements among network
participants about methods and time frames for moving cases through the
judicial system. The interorganizational perspective assumes that an implicit
and informal negotiated case management order exits in every judicial system.
This informal negotiated order can be made more explicit. As one
consequence for there to be change, for there to be reform, within a
jurisdiction, representatives of network agencies need to determine, together,
why, where, how, and by whom can caseflow be managed differently.
The reform emphasis here, then, is on change which at a minimum
requires a management team composed of numerous relatively equally
powerful managers assigned to one organization or another within the broader
interorganizational network. Also, this aspect of the perspective suggests that
a critical mass of managers, if not all managers, need to be receptive to the
ideas, innovations, problems, and concerns of litigants, legislatures, and other
representatives of the external environment, as well as receptive to the
contributions of participants from organizations that makeup the
interorganizational network. At a minimum there should be considerable
flexibility in management response. All the managers in general and court
managers in particular need to monitor the environment, using caseflow as one

important indicator of performance, and modify the judicial system in response
to changes in performance.
The second prescriptive component of the interorganizational
perspective is the assumption that managing caseflow requires maintaining a
common direction among the many organizations that form the judicial
network. Fortunately, caseflow is one tangible thing in the judicial network
(and perhaps the only tangible thing) common to all interorganizational
partners. Caseflow is also the only common interest among all partners; they
must all do (or not do) something with cases. Caseflow provides a focus for
management activity. System theory offers some prescriptive help here. It
suggests that establishing interorganizational agreements among network
agencies, facilitating and maintaining communication, and monitoring
caseflow, are management activities which will help maintain this common
direction (see e.g., Baar, 1980; Pullinger, 1985: 23-28; Reed, 1973; Sayles,
Establishing interorganizational agreements largely means making the
implicit negotiated case processing order more explicit to all participants in the
judicial network. Establishing interorganizational agreements also includes
accommodating the individual interests of each organization within the

network with a collective interest in effective caseflow throughout the entire
judicial network. Moreover, for there to be an explicit caseflow order, the
presence of good information and communication are essential. Managers
from all of the networks components must know what other components are
doing and know their collective effect on the service they provide. They must
be able to plan, that is, anticipate how the actions of their unit might affect the
apparatus generally, especially its performance or relationship with the external
environment. Managers must be able to monitor and assess performance and
its correlates, and they must be able to modify behavior in light of these
assessments. Managers then, in part, must be sophisticated analysts who can
monitor and adjust performance on the basis of a system-wide perspective.
The third prescriptive component of the interorganizational perspective
focuses on redefining the role of the court and especially the roles of judges
and court administrators as managers within the judicial system. It stresses
that both court administrators and judges have a system wide management role
but that these roles do not center on attempting to control either caseflow or
other judicial system participants. This lack of control leaves an important but
unacceptable void within the judicial system. If the dispute resolution process
was left entirely to a series of fluid ad hoc decisions, it is unlikely that cases

would progress smoothly let alone expeditiously through the multi-stepped
judicial process. The transition points, that is where primary responsibility for
case progress shifts from one organization to another, in particular create
potential impediments to efficient caseflow. The interorganizational
perspective recognizes that an effective judicial process requires at least a
reasonably predictable process which includes general time frames and a
general consensus about how cases should be processed. Even though
responsibility for designing and making this process work is shared by actors
in organizations throughout the inter-organizational network, the court is in the
best position to determine that acceptable, equitable, caseflow agreements exist
and that these agreements are being taken seriously.
The interorganizational perspective, then, acknowledges the courts role
in establishing and maintaining an adequate caseflow network. In particular,
the court can provide system-wide leadership in part by acting as a mediator
of conflicts among practitioners in the justice network. As the legally
sanctioned final and ultimate dispute resolver the court retains responsibility
for insuring fairness and justice throughout the life of a case. Rather than
attempting to control the network and its participants, the court can serve as
the integrator of the network. It can facilitate caseflow within the

interorganizational network by first initiating and negotiating caseflow
management agreements and guidelines for interactions among organizations
within the network and then monitoring and informing network participants of
case progress. Moreover, even though the court does not determine outcomes
in most legal disputes in most urban trial jurisdictions, it can monitor to
determine that cases are being resolved, and that they are being resolved
promptly, that is, that cases are being resolved within the guidelines negotiated
among organizations forming the network. Finally, the interorganzational
perspective suggests that the court continues its traditional role of resolving
disputes which have not been resolved by the intervention of other network
Chapter Summary: Accommodating Interorganizational Networks
In this chapter it was indicated that there is a relationship between how
one views the judicial system and how one decides to manage it. It was also
suggested that perceptions and beliefs about how-to-manage courts are greatly
influenced by the broader fields of organizational theory and management. In
addition, the review of the two dominant court management perspectives
revealed considerable disparity between the two perspectives description of

the judicial system but nonetheless considerable overlap in their prescriptions
for court management. It was shown that despite some sophisticated
packaging recently, the prescriptive content of contemporary court
management for the most part remains a very familiar, traditional form of
scientific/structural management. As a possible alternative, the elements of an
interorganizational approach for analyzing and managing the judicial network
was presented. The interorganizational perspectives description of the judicial
network, emphasizes: (1) interdependence among the numerous essential
organizations forming a complex interorganizational network; (2) the
importance, as determinants of performance, of local legal culture and implicit
negotiated orders as well as formal rules, procedures, and other traditionally
recognized attributes of organizational structure; (3) the anti-hierarchical nature
of the judicial process; (4) the presence of diffuse decision-making in todays
trial courts, and (5) the courts role as a system integrator. Also, it was
indicated that the prescriptive content of the interorganizational perspective
stresses case sequencing or caseflow rather than organizational structure as the
focus of management activity within the judicial system and the role of
numerous agency managers as well as judges and court administrators as
facilitators of effective interorganizational networking.

The analysis leads to two general conclusions about the scope, content,
and direction of contemporary court management and planning.
First, viewing courts as system integrators within an interorganizational
network provides a workable alternative to more traditional perspectives of
court organization and management. As will be shown in Chapters 4 and 5
the interorganizational perspective better fits the day-to-day working reality of
contemporary courts than do other perspectives. It acknowledges that the
judicial process has become as much an administrative process as it is an
adjudicative process. It recognizes that important decisions often are made
without direct intervention by judges, the ultimate traditional authorities.
However, it recognizes that at the same time direct court control of case
decision-making is declining, judges importance as managers in a complex
interorganizational network is increasing. Judges are responsible for insuring
that cases are resolved promptly and fairly in part by maintaining an effective
administrative apparatus. It also acknowledges the complexity of a judicial
system where numerous agencies and parties are integrally involved in an
array of sequential tasks for moving a caseload via a network. While the
perspective admits that no single agency has paramount authority over
caseflow, it urges the court, and especially its presiding judges, actively to

pursue the goals that all disputes be resolved fairly and expeditiously. For this
to happen the court must be the initiator, negotiator, and monitoring agent of
workable interorganizational caseflow management agreements.
Second, developing the prescriptive, management content of the
interorganizational perspective should be a high priority of the court
management profession. The few prescriptive pieces presented so far are
rudimentary at best. They provide a glimpse of what could be. Over the past
few decades the coalition of justice system practitioners, academicians from
a variety of disciplines, and researchers that form the court management
profession, has greatly increased our general knowledge of how the judicial
network operates and in particular has greatly increased our understanding of
the intricacies of court delay. However, our ability to describe well, how
courts work, has greatly exceeded our ability to accept and use our new
knowledge. Adequately using these insights, in part by developing approaches
to court management and planning which match the working reality of most
courts, has not yet occurred.

The purpose of this chapter is to describe the study methodology and
provide a general profile of the seven courts examined in the analysis. The
presentation begins with a review of the projects two primary methodological
components: (1) a multiple case study of justice system operations in seven
urban trial court jurisdictions, and (2) a description and interpretation of the
implications for justice systems of the broader forces shaping todays urban
trial court environment. Information about the seven urban trial courts was
obtained by the study author when he served as a consultant to a joint U.S.
Bureau of Justice Assistance and State Justice Institute sponsored technical
assistance effort to improve performance in congested trial court jurisdictions.
The review of methodological components is followed by a description
of the types of data collected in each jurisdiction and how they were analyzed.
These data include for each of the seven jurisdictions, descriptive information

about: (1) the size and composition of the caseload, (2) case processing time,
(3) court organization and structure, (4) procedures, (5) personnel work habits
and attitudes, and (6) resources.
The chapter ends with a brief comparative profile of each of the seven
study courts salient jurisdictional, structural, procedural, and caseload
Design. Methods, and Data
Methodological Components
Two primary methodologies are used in this study. The first
methodology, a multiple case study of justice system operations in seven
jurisdictions, was used to: (1) describe the structure and operations of trial
courts, and (2) identify and critique the adequacy of management responses to
the justice system environment. Note that the identification and critique of
management responses was supplemented by findings from the literature
review presented in Chapter 2. The seven jurisdictions included in the study
are listed in Table 3:1.

Table 3.1: Jurisdictions Examined in the Study 1987 Characteristics
1986 Population Total# Judges Jurisdiction*
Boston, Massachusetts (Suffolk Co. Superior Court) 661,000 16 C/F
Jersey City, New Jersey (Hudson County Superior Court) 553,000 25 C/F/S/D/P/H/J
Newark, New Jersey (Essex County Superior Court) 842,000 50 C/F/S/D/P/H/J
Dayton, Ohio (Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas) 566,000 12 C/F/D/P/J
Detroit, Michigan (Wayne County Circuit/ Recorders Court) 2,164,000 69 C/F/D
Denver, Colorado (Denver District Court) 505,000 20 C/F/D
Phoenix, Arizona 1,900,000 56 OF/M/D/P/T
(Maricopa County Superior Court)
Jurisdiction: C = Civil; F = Felony; M = Misdemeanor; S = Small Claims;
D = Domestic Relations; P = Probate and Estate; H = Mental Health; J =

The second methodology, a review of the broader justice system trends
literature, was used to identify the magnitude and sources of problems
confronting courts. The trends literature review focused both on factors which
shape demand on courts, such as rising criminal caseloads, and factors which
shape the types of responses available for meeting demands.
Data Collection
A Caseflow Management Review (CMR), a standardized method for
assessing courts, was the data collection procedure used in each of the seven
study jurisdictions. The CMR was developed between 1988-92 by the author
and other staff and consultants of the National Center For State Courts as one
component in the previously mentioned State Justice Institute and Bureau of
Justice Assistance sponsored technical assistance project focused on reducing
costs and delay in large urban trial courts (see for details, Maron et al., 1990).
A CMR is a systematic assessment of the organization and structure,
management techniques, and administrative procedures used within a justice
system to process its caseload from case filing to disposition. The purpose of
a CMR is to provide an analysis of the efficiency and effectiveness of a
courts case processing and provide suggestions for developing and

implementing a strategy for improving court performance.
Five steps are included in a CMR: (1) determining a courts
jurisdictional characteristics, operating statues, rules, and procedures, structure
and organization, workload, and staffing patterns, and assessing the affects of
these attributes on effective and efficient case processing; (2) collecting and
analyzing case processing time information; (3) interviewing justice system
participants including judges, administrators, clerks, private attorneys, and
representatives from ancillary court agencies e.g., sheriff, police, and
probation department officials, and public defenders and prosecutors -- about
the inducements and impediments to effective case processing; (4) preparing
a memorandum that (a) describes the structure, organization, and procedures
used to process cases in a jurisdiction, (b) assesses the courts strengths and
weaknesses in light of management principles that have been identified as
being important to effective caseflow management, and (c) offers conclusions
and recommendations for formulating a court action plan to improve case
processing performance, and (5) developing a comprehensive court action plan
for addressing case processing deficiencies.
The structural and organizational attributes examined in a CMR are
largely those that define the capacity of the court and other justice system

partners to process the caseload. These structural and organizational attributes
include the division of case processing labor and authority among different
units within the system, and how communications about case processing are
organized among these justice system units. Procedural aspects of justice
system operations, such as court rules and time standards, are examined in a
CMR because they usually are at least expressions of participants beliefs about
how case processing should work. In addition indicators of actual practice and
participant attitudes e.g., work habits and participant beliefs about their role
and the role of the court in case processing are examined in conjunction
with formal rules and procedures.
The structure of the CMR acknowledges that often the reality of case
processing can be considerably different from what would be revealed in a
review of the more formal rules and procedures alone. Workload and resource
indicators examined in the CMR include case filing and disposition trends,
case backlog, budgets and the numbers of judges, court staff, attorneys, and
other justice system agency personnel. Finally, jurisdictional characteristics
are included in the CMR to assist in determining the general environment
surrounding the court and the potential effects of that environment on the
types and magnitude of demands placed on the court. Figure 3.1 lists the

attributes examined in the CMRs conducted in each of the courts.
Four primary data collection methods were used in this aspect of the
study. First, to obtain information about case processing time, a sample of
about 500 recently completed cases was drawn in each court. Second, a
standardized form designed to be completed jointly by project staff and court
personnel was used to solicit information about justice system structure and
operations in each of the seven study jurisdictions. Third, approximately fifty
1.5 to 2 hour long personal interviews with judges, court administrators, public
and private sector attorneys, clerks, law enforcement and jail officials, and
probation staff were conducted in each court. The purpose of the interviewing
was: (1) to learn firsthand about the court environment, the interorganizational
and inter-personal dynamics that affect court operations; and (2) to elicit
practitioners perceptions of what should happen and what in fact does happen,
and to ascertain their views about the strengths and weaknesses of the current
system, the most pressing problems, and how the courts performance might
be improved. Fourth, court operations were observed by project staff to see
how cases were processed from filing to disposition.

Figure 3.1: Attributes Examined in a
Caseflow Management Review
Type of Attribute
Structural and Organizational
Division of labor and authority among judges, court
administrators, clerks, attorneys, and other justice system
Decision making structure and processes including
designation of participants responsible for formulating
management policies.
Access to and control of resources such as staff, information,
and facilities.
~ Communication structures including committees, working
groups, bench-bar meetings, and judge meetings.
Methods for collecting and distributing data and information
such as caseload and performance statistics.
Court rules including those directing staff and attorney
performance and the extent they are followed.
Time standards including total case processing time standards
and standards between case processing events, and the extent
they are followed.
Administrative procedures such as case assignment and trial

Figure 3.1: Attributes Examined in a
Caseflow Management Review (continued)
Practice, Habits, and Attitudes
- Work habits and expectations of judges, attorneys,
administrators, clerks, and other justice system participants.
- Management style and philosophy of judges and
- Beliefs about court management including beliefs about the
appropriate management roles of different justice system
-- Beliefs about a participants specific roles.
- Degree of congruity between formal and informal structure
and procedures.
Workload and Resources
- Staff, budgets, facilities.
Analysis and Synthesis of Information from Seven Jurisdictions
Two work products were prepared as part of the CMR in each of the
seven study courts: (1) an approximately 50 page report summarizing the main
Endings from the CMR and containing specific recommendations and (2) an
action plan developed by project staff and the courts leaders. More
specifically, the contents of the CMR report included: (1) a short summary of

the courts organizational structure and aggregate data showing trends in
caseload size and age, the composition of the pending caseload, and case
processing time; (2) an analysis of court operations in relation to elements that
had been identified in previous studies as being key to effective caseflow
management; (3) an identification of special problems that fell outside the key
element framework, and (4) conclusions and recommendations about what the
court could do both short-term and long-term to improve its operation and
performance. The court action plan focused on the specific activities to be
undertaken to implement selected improvements. As noted previously, the
reports from each court also were combined and used as a major information
source for the comparative case study results presented in this document.
In addition, during a series of project staff meetings held in mid-1990,
information about the seven courts was reviewed and synthesized further in an
effort to reveal general findings about court performance and how it might be
improved. A final project report that cataloged the lessons identified at the
project staff sessions, and summarized what went on in each jurisdiction, was
prepared at the end of the project (see generally, Maron et al., 1990). The
author of this thesiss detailed notes from the staff sessions, along with the
information presented in the final project report, were incorporated into the

analysis to be presented in Chapter 4.
Statistical Profile of the Seven Study Jurisdictions
Although each of the seven courts included in the study were located
in either moderately or highly populated metropolitan areas, the scope of
jurisdiction and number of judges assigned to process cases varied
considerable from site to site. For example, as shown in Table 3.1 (page 46),
the two New Jersey courts had jurisdiction over the entire range of litigation
types i.e., they have jurisdiction over civil, felony, misdemeanor, small
claims, domestic relations, probate and estate, mental health, and juvenile
cases -- while the Boston court in contrast handled only civil and felony cases.
Still, with the exception of the Boston court, all of the courts included in the
study had jurisdiction over civil cases, felonies, and domestic relations cases,
the three case types generally recognized as being the most demanding types
of work faced by general jurisdiction trial courts (see Goerdt, 1989: 3-8).
Table 3.1 also shows that the number of judges available for processing cases
in each court varied considerable from a low of 12 judges in Dayton, Ohio,
to a high of 69 judges in Detroit.
In addition, when data were collected in the late 1980s, economic,

social, and political conditions varied considerably among the seven study sites
(see for details, Bureau of Census, 1989). For example, Phoenix and Boston
were enjoying relatively robust economic growth when the study was
conducted while economic conditions in the other jurisdictions were not as
good. Moreover, the Detroit, Newark, and Jersey City courts serve areas with
large poverty populations while the size of the poverty populations varied
considerably among the four other jurisdictions. The ethnic and racial
composition, age structure, and population growth (or decline) rates also vary
greatly among the seven study courts. Finally, the law enforcement
approaches popular in each jurisdiction when data were collected in the late
1980s, varied greatly. The war on drugs for example was being waged
aggressively in Boston and the two New Jersey courts by the end of the 1980s,
while the intensity of the war was much lower in the other jurisdictions. In
short, the courts included in the study likely reflect the full range of Americas
vast urban trial court context.
The workload data presented in Table 3.2 reflect some of the variations
in broader environmental context among the seven study courts. Total felony
filings varied from a comparatively modest 1,646 cases in Boston to nearly ten
times as many cases, 16,312, in Detroit. Similarly, civil case filings varied

from a relatively modest 4,401 in Dayton to 45,571 cases in Phoenix.
Table 3.2: Workload -- 1987 Characteristics
Felony Total Filings Per FTE Judge Civil Filings Total Per FTE Judge % of Criminal Cases Drug Serious* Cases Cases
Boston 1,646 206 7,661 958 44% 31%
Jersey City 2,385 360 6,714 1,246 45% 14%
Newark 7,217 390 8,682 868 42% 12%
Dayton 2,220 555 4,401 611 12% 12%
Detroit 16,312 480 29,798 1,058 19% 14%
Denver 2,910 431 26,239 2332 19% 18%
Phoenix 12,410 917 45,571 1,753 24% 10%
* Murder, rape, and robbery cases
As one would expect, the number of judges available to process cases
in each study site also varied, with the number of judges increasing along with
total caseload. Nonetheless, as indicated by the great variations in caseloads
per judge among the seven courts, workload disparities were not eliminated.
Felony caseloads per judge varied from 206 cases per judge in Boston to 917
per judge in Phoenix, while civil caseloads varied from 611 per judge in

Dayton to 2,332 per judge in Denver. Finally, Table 3.2 also shows the
effects of differences in how strongly the war on drugs was being waged in
the study jurisdictions. Drug cases accounted for only about 12% of the entire
criminal caseload in Dayton but nearly one-half of the caseloads in Boston,
Jersey City, and Newark.
Table 3.3 lists how cases are calendared or assigned in the seven study
jurisdictions. A calendar type is the method used to assign cases to judges.
In an individual calendar jurisdiction cases are assigned to particular judge
after the complaint is filed, and the assigned judge handles all matters related
to the case until its disposition. In a master calendar court, case events are
handled by judges available when an event is scheduled, and thus a different
judge may handle each of the potentially many case events such as scheduling
conferences, motions, pretrial conferences, and trials. Two of the courts
included in the study (Jersey City and Detroit) used a hybrid system which
included a master calendar for some of the judges, and individual calendars for
others. Usually, the master calendar judges were less productive judges who
did not like the responsibility for an entire set of cases from filing to
Table 3.3 also shows that in all but two of the study courts (Dayton

and Detroit) judges were either assigned only civil or criminal caseloads. In
addition, most of the courts criminal case judges tended to hear mostly
felonies. In all of the study courts, judges periodically (every two to five
years) rotated between civil and criminal divisions.
Table 3.3: Calendar Type, Judicial Assignment Procedures
1987 Characteristics
Calendar Tvoe Judicial Assignment Civil Cases Judicial Assignment Criminal Cases
Boston Master General Civil Felony Only
Jersey City Hybrid (M) General Civil Individual Fel/Misd.
Newark Master General Civil Hybrid (I) Felony
Dayton Individual Civil/Criminal Felony/Civil
Detroit Hybrid (M) Civil/Criminal Hybrid (I) Felony
Denver Individual General Civil Felony Only
Phoenix Individual General Civil Felony Only

Case processing time also varied dramatically in the study courts. The
median time from filing to disposition for civil cases ranged from 177 days in
Dayton, the fastest court to over three years (1,105 days) in Boston. Table 3.4
shows that none of the courts had completed their civil cases within the
American Bar Association time standards of 90% of all cases within one year
and 100% by the end of two years.
Table 3.4: Filing to Disposition Civil Case Processing Time
1987 Characteristics
All Civil Cases % Above % Jury
Median 90% ABA Standards Dispositions
Davs Davs 1 vear 2 vears
Boston 1,105 2,154 78% 61% 1%
(N = 481) Jersey City 443 721 62% 10% 4%
(N = 471) Newark 694 942 83% 42% 9%
(N = 550) Dayton 177 526 23% 5% 1%
(N = 476) Detroit 440 986 66% 27% 2%
(N = 502) Denver 262 667 38% 8% 4%
(N = 481) Phoenix 307 767 43% 12% 2%
(N = 455)

However, the degree of disparity between ABA expectations and
performance varied greatly across the seven study jurisdictions. For example,
61% of the Boston court civil caseload had not been completed after two years
while only 5% of the Dayton caseload was pending after two years. The
amount of time required to process cases might seem especially surprising
given the fact that the vast bulk of cases in each of the seven jurisdictions
from 99% in Boston and Dayton to 91% were settled or dropped.
Similarly, felony case processing time varied greatly among the study
courts even though all of the courts exceeded ABA standards. Table 3.5
shows that time from arrest to disposition ranged from a median of 56 days
in Dayton to 308 days in Newark. Only a relatively modest 8% of the cases
in the fastest court (Dayton) exceeded ABA standards specifying that 98% of
felony cases should be completed in less than 180 days, compared to 81% in
Newark. Jury trials again were rare. The vast bulk of criminal cases -
ranging from 98% in Phoenix to 92% in Detroit in each of the study courts
were plea bargained.
The relationships among court structure, workload, performance, and
management approaches are examined in detail in the next chapter.

Table 3.5: Anest to Disposition Criminal Case Processing Time -
1987 Characteristics
All Criminal Cases Median 90%
Days Days
Boston 233 742
(N = 449) Jersey City 198 568
(N = 514) Newark 308 734
(N = 511) Dayton 56 169
(N = 494) Detroit 71 215
(N = 463) Denver 156 481
(N = 372) Phoenix 98 330
(N = 470)
% Above % Jury
ABA Standards Dispositions
+ 180 Days +1 year
DK DK 3%
56% 22% 5%
81% 41% 5%
8% 1% 3%
15% 2% 8%
44% 17% 6%
22% 9% 2%

Findings from the seven jurisdiction multiple case study are presented
in this chapter. The presentation begins with a discussion of the relationships
among court structure, operations, and case processing time. The discussion
indicates that in the sample courts, as in courts generally, much of the focus
of court management over the past few decades has been on the sources,
consequences, and solutions to case processing time delay. The presentation
continues with a review of problem similarities and differences among the
seven jurisdictions. Using a ten key element framework, the review of
problem similarities and differences looks at the seven courts: (1) use of goals,
(2) leadership styles, (3) use of information, (4) communications, (5) judge and
attorney support and commitment, (6) role of administrative staff, (7)
accountability for caseflow, (8) caseflow management procedures, (9) backlog,
and (10) personnel education and training. A summary of responses to
problems identified in the study jurisdictions is also presented.

A cataloging of the general lessons for court management improvement
strategies follows the review of problems and responses. The chapter ends
with a discussion of unresolved issues.
Case Processing Time Delay and Its Correlates
The Problem of Delay
As noted previously, a desire to reduce case processing time delay has
driven court improvement efforts over the past few decades. The focus on
delay should not be too surprising, given the magnitude of delay in trial
courts. The case processing time profiles for the seven study jurisdictions
presented previously, closely reflect what is going on in trial courts generally.
The Correlates of Delay
An analysis of the correlates of case processing time within and among
the seven study courts reveals ten important patterns. Moreover, all ten of the
patterns that are apparent among the seven study courts are consistent with
those revealed in detailed examinations of criminal case processing time in
twenty-six courts and civil case processing time in thirty-seven courts (see for

details Goerdt and Martin, 1989; Goerdt, 1989; and Goerdt 1991).
Specifically, analysis of the correlates of case processing time across
courts indicated that: (1) there was very little positive relationship among
criminal caseload size, resource magnitude, and measures of case processing
time (see also Goerdt, 1989: 71-75). Courts with relatively larger criminal
caseloads did not necessarily have slower case processing times. Some courts
with relatively numerous filings per judge, such as Phoenix, also had relatively
speedy case processing times. In contrast, other busy courts e.g., Detroit
had comparatively slower case processing times. Similarly, some courts with
relatively fewer filings per judge, such Jersey City, and Boston, also had
relatively slower case processing times. But other less burdened courts e.g.,
Dayton had comparatively faster case processing times. (See Tables 3.2 and
3.4 for details.)
However, (2) there were strong positive correlations between court
backlog size and case processing time measures.1 More backlogged courts
1 The application of a backlog index a measure of the number of
cases pending on January 1, 1987, divided by the number of cases
disposed of in 1987 to each of the seven study court caseloads results
in the following scores for each jurisdiction: Boston Felony = .88, Civil =
1.72; Jersey City .39 and .69; Newark .65 and 1.14; Dayton .17 and .58;
Detroit .17 and .88; Denver .39 and .46; and Phoenix .48 and .74.

tended to be slower courts, regardless of the relative size of their filings and
the number of judges they had assigned to felony cases (Goerdt, 1989: 69).
For example, Jersey City, Boston, and Newark were all relatively slower
courts that had relatively small caseloads per judge but relatively large case
backlogs. In contrast, Phoenix and Dayton were faster courts with relatively
large caseloads per judge but comparatively small case backlogs. And finally,
large caseloads alone did not necessarily correlate positively with large case
backlogs. Across the seven study courts, as well as in the more extensive
twenty-six and thirty-seven court studies, (3) there was no significant positive
relationship between case filings per judge and court backlog size (see also
Goerdt, 1991; and Goerdt, 1989: 72). Both courts with relatively large and
small numbers of case filings per judge did and did not have large case
Caseload size and complexity, and the magnitude of court resources,
then, do not appear to determine case processing time. Yet courts that tend
to have backlogs also tend to be substantially slower courts. As will be shown
in the next section, the positive relationship between backlog and case
processing time likely is indicative of a complex web of interdependent casual
relationships. On the one hand, having a large case backlog may indicate that

a court has lacked the appropriate amount of resources, including the
management sophistication, needed to keep-up. Yet on the other hand, over
time the mere presence of a backlog, especially a large backlog, might
contribute to greater case processing time. Large backlogs likely contribute
to "whats the point in killing myself attitudes and also make it more difficult
to ascertain much less monitor case status.
In any event, the presence of a backlog, regardless of its source or
particular affects, appears to be a good indicator of a troubled court. Again
note that these general findings of little consistent positive or negative
correlation among caseload, resources, and case processing time but positive
relationships between backlog and processing time are consistent with findings
reported in previous studies of case processing time and delay in state and
federal, trial and appellate courts conducted over the past few decades (see
e.g., Chapper et al., 1984; Church et al., 1978a; Flanders, 1980; Friesen et al.,
1978; Mahoney et al., 1988; Martin and Prescott, 1981a; Neubauer et al.,
1981; Posner, 1985; Weller et al., 1982a).
In part the lack of positive correlations among caseload size, resources,
and case processing time, the positive correlation between backlog and case
processing time, and the lack of positive correlation between filings and

backlog, are all attributable to the mitigating effects of management practices.
In the next section it will be shown that three case management practices in
particular displayed positive relationships when correlated with case processing
time measures: (4) courts that resolved pretrial motions early in the justice
process had considerably shorter case processing times than did other courts;
(5) courts that established firm trial dates were generally faster courts; and (6)
courts that had cleaned-up their backlogs by disposing of old bench warrants
were generally faster courts (see also Goerdt, 1989: 86-90).
Regarding drug cases, (7) among the courts examined there was a
moderately strong positive relationship between the magnitude of a courts
drug sale caseload and case processing time. Courts with larger drug sale
caseloads also tended to have longer case processing times. Moreover, (8)
there was a strong positive relationship between how quickly a court processed
its general criminal caseload and how quickly it processed its drug sale cases.
Relatively faster courts tended to process all their cases, including drug cases,
more expeditiously than relatively slower courts. And, (9) there was a
tendency for drug sale cases to take longer to process than was required to
process other less serious criminal cases. The case processing time profiles
of drug sale cases in most of the study courts were far more similar to those

of more serious felonies murder, rape, and robbery rather than being
similar to the case processing time profiles of other case types (see for details
Goerdt and Martin, 1989.) (See Table 4.1.)
Table 4.1: Average Felony Case Processing Days
Indictment to Disposition, 1987.
Drug Sale Most Serious Drug Possession Other
Cases Cases Cases Felonies
Boston 322 493 DK 394
Jersey City 203 274 246 359
Newark 262 310 203 367
Dayton 67 52 72 53
Detroit 65 101 47 63
Denver DK 238 154 247
Phoenix 203 198 82 127
Finally, there was one very notable difference in case disposition
patterns between drug cases and all other case types: (10) drug cases that were
eventually dismissed tended to be dismissed much later in the judicial process
than were all other types of cases. Interviews with court personnel revealed

that in some of the high drug volume courts, complicated package deals
involving multiple drug cases and multiple defendants often are put together.
As part of these deals, additional pending cases will be dropped relatively late
in the justice process. That is, other additional cases will be dropped after the
other provisions of the bargain have been followed.
Issue and Problem Similarities and Differences Among Seven Jurisdictions
In addition to the patterns described in the previous section, there were
many differences and similarities in the types of issues, the scope of problems,
and types of management responses, in the seven study courts. Moreover, in
part, as will be shown in this section, some of the differences in case
processing time among the seven courts, are likely attributable to variations in
management practices.
Figure 4.1 summarizes a set of general management elements that have
been identified as the keys to successful caseflow management by previous
single and multi-jurisdictional studies of court management and delay (see e.g.,
Mahoney et al., 1988). The ten key element list is used here to help organize
a discussion of management practices, and the practices potential effects on
performance, in the study jurisdictions. As the discussion will show, it is

extremely unlikely that the ten key elements alone provide a comprehensive
prescription that will work in every jurisdiction.
Figure 4.1: Ten Elements Identified As Being Common to
Successful Caseflow Management Programs
1. Leadership including the presence of judge, administrator, and attorney
Who are the leaders of the local justice system? What tasks are they
involved in? What skills do they have? What priority do court leaders assign
to caseflow management? How does the role of the chief judge differ from
that of the court administrator and other system administrators? What are the
interactions among court leaders? How are caseflow management policies
developed and by whom? How are problems identified and solved? What are
the relationships among justice system agencies?
2. Goals such as case processing time standards and individual performance
-- What case processing time goals does the court have? Are the standards
comprehensive, i.e., do the standards address interim steps in case processing
as well as total case processing? Are there goals for reducing the size and age
of the pending caseload? What progress has been made towards obtaining
stated goals? Are there goals and standards used to assess performance?
3. Information especially information used by court and justice system leaders
to monitor case processing times and identify problems before they become
What information is collected for caseflow management and how is it
reported? How useful is the information? What does the information reveal
about how long it takes to process cases? How accurate, complete, and timely
is the information? Is there a close relationship between the courts goals and
the information it collects and uses?

Figure 4.1: Ten Elements Identified As Being Common to
Successful Caseflow Management Programs (continued)
4. Communications and broad consultation among judges, administrators, and
staff within a court, between the trial court and the private bar, and
prosecutors and public defenders.
How is information exchanged? Does communication appear as directives
or is it facilitative and problem-solving focused? How are caseflow
management problems identified? Are there periodic judges meetings,
administrative meetings, bar-bench meetings, justice system group meetings?
5. Judicial Responsibility and Commitment especially towards ensuring an
expeditious pace of litigation, and holding lawyers and other system
participants to schedules previously set
What are judges and attorneys views about the value of caseflow
management, goals, delay reduction initiatives, and continuance policies?
6. Administrative Staff Involvement in all aspects of caseflow management.
How are administrative staff involved in developing caseflow management
procedures? How do administrative staff monitor caseflow and identify
problems? How do administrative staff develop and implement responses to
7. Education and Training of judges, court administrators, court staff,
attorneys, and other system participants about the value and techniques of
caseflow management.
- Is there training on the purposes, concepts, and court policies and goals on
case management? How frequent is the training? Who attends training

Figure 4.1: Ten Elements Identified As Being Common to
Successful Caseflow Management Programs* (continued)
8. Accountability of individual case processing performance.
Are there clear lines of authority between the presiding judge and court
administrator and the administrator and staff?
9. Caseflow Management Procedures that include monitoring case progress
from case filing to disposition, encouraging completion of case preparation
early in the litigation process, and ensuring that expectations that an event will
take place when scheduled are met.
What types of systems are used by the court to continuously facilitate and
monitor case processing from filing to disposition? What types of actions are
taken in cases that do not meet time standards? Are continuances easily and
routinely granted? Do events take place when scheduled? Is counsel for
indigent defendants assigned early in the process? Are cases screened shortly
following arrest by experienced prosecutors?
10. Backlog Reduction and Inventory Control including disposing old cases
within a system and implementing procedures for insuring that over time the
number of case filings do not consistently exceed case dispositions.
Are backlogs monitored? Are there backlog reduction procedures?
* The list of key elements was derived from Mahoney et al., 1988; and Martin
and Maron, 1991.

Use of Goals
The emerging conventional wisdom of court management stresses that
the presence of meaningful goals -- including time standards that can shape
expectations about the length of time appropriate for processing particular
types of cases are important correlates of case processing time performance.
A positive relationship was also found among the seven study courts. Both
the Dayton and Phoenix courts, the two fastest study courts, had established
and promoted case processing time goals for the entire caseloads, although
both jurisdictions had also experienced considerable resistance by attorneys to
meeting these goals.2
The Detroit criminal court also implemented case processing standards
and greatly improved case processing times to a more respectable level, largely
in response to federal court orders to clean-up criminal case processing.
However, note that civil case processing standards were not established in
Detroit, and civil case processing times suffered in general. Case processing
time goals in Denver and Jersey City were only just beginning to be
2 During the early 1990s, much of the reform effort has used more of
an interorganizational approach. In both jurisdictions the effort has
focused on working with attorneys to make sure that occasional attorney
needs for additional time can be met without sacrificing case processing
time goals generally.

established at the time of data collection. Standards were talked about a great
deal in Newark and Boston, but have never been established despite repeated
technical assistance efforts.
Analysis of the use of case processing time goals in the study
jurisdictions also revealed that to be effective the goals needed to account for
the entire process, that is, cover the period from case inception to disposition.
In particular, standards needed to be applied to the period between case filing
and trial readiness in civil cases, and between arrest and arraignment in
criminal cases. These findings generally support the results of previous studies
(see e.g., Weller, Martin, and Ruhnka, 1982a).
Finally, the presence of other types of performance goals were
extremely rare, even in the few study courts that had established case
processing time goals. For example none of the courts had established firm
expectations about the number of cases a judge could handle in a given period
of time, or how many cases might be disposed of by trials, rather than by plea
bargains or settlements.
Leadership Styles
The cult of leadership ala Peters and Watermans In Search of

Excellence (1982) had drifted to the court management profession by the late
1980s, and leadership was talked about a great deal in each of the seven study
jurisdictions, as being very important. However, the meaning of leadership
varied greatly among the seven study jurisdictions.
For example, in Dayton, leadership meant the presence of an assertive
chief judge who was equipped with detailed time standards, severe continuance
review procedures, compliant judges, and docile attorneys, especially within
the PDs and DAs office. The chief judge was assisted in running the system
by a supportive court administrator who spend a great deal of time persuading
court staff to follow the chiefs directives. Given the extraordinary power it
had as a result of a sweeping federal court mandate to clean-up the system, the
Detroit criminal court copied much of the Dayton model. Still, few courts
then or now had much respect for what went on in Dayton, despite efforts by
court education organizations to promulgate the Dayton model across the
Instead, Phoenix offered an alternative model of leadership that
appeared to be reasonably effective as well as more palatable than the Dayton
model to the less draconian court management majority. The Phoenix model
stressed the need for the chief judge and court administrator, along with the

presiding judges in each of the courts major divisions, to work cooperatively
with the other judges, the DAs, PDs, private attorneys, court and clerks staff,
in establishing court policies and procedures, including generally acceptably
case processing time and continuance standards. Under this model, the chief
and presiding judges tended to serve at least four year leadership terms and
received a bit more compensation than did the other judges.
Leadership styles in the remaining study courts ranged from the chief-
judge-as-first-among-equals in Jersey City and Denver to individual judge
kingdoms in Newark and Boston. Perhaps similar to many university
academic department, in the first among equals model, the chief judge would
work to persuade judge colleagues to work together to establish court policies
and procedures. Once policies and procedures had been established they were
then presented to court staff, attorneys, and the public who were expected to
comply with what ever had been developed. Perhaps not too surprising, court
staff, attorneys, and the public often did not go along with the courts policies
and procedures. Judges tended to automatically rotate every few years in and
out of leadership positions in courts that used this model.
The kingdom model of court leadership essentially allowed each judge
to ran his or her courtroom as they wanted, as long as each judges policies

and procedures did not egregiously violate state and federal law and legal
ethics. For example, time standards, even if they supposedly existed for the
entire court, were either followed or not depending on the particular
orientation of each judge. Continuance policies also varied greatly, although
they were usually very lax; judges who began to develop a reputation for
being strict in granting continuances quickly found attorneys petitioning to
have cases reassigned to more lenient judges. The role of court staff in the
kingdom model was to be flexible and support or accommodate each judges
particular needs.
Use of Information
Basic management information about caseloads, backlogs, case
processing time, individual workloads, and court policies and procedures was
either lacking or rarely used in most of the study jurisdictions. The Dayton
court system and the Detroit criminal court were notable exceptions to the
general pattern; in both jurisdictions a variety of general court and individual
caseload and processing time reports were produced, distributed to, and at least
acknowledged by, judges and other court staff. Experience working with
dozens of other courts across the nation also reinforces a view that what goes

on in the other five study jurisdictions is typical in courts generally.
Specifically, in the Boston, Jersey City, Newark, Denver, and Phoenix
courts, record keeping systems were so poor that they contained neither the
data required for producing meaningful management information nor had the
technology for adequately producing meaningful management reports even if
data were available. Conditions in Phoenix provide a good example.
Most case activities, such as motions, dispositions, sentences, etc., in
Phoenix are recorded in a series of minute orders generated in each judges
office. Given the size of the court, this means that well over one million
minute orders are entered each year. One copy of each minute order remains
in a case file located in the office of the judge where the case has been
assigned; a second copy is sent to a central court administrative unit, while a
third and fourth copy are sent to the clerks office. Information contained in
the copy sent to the administrative office is entered into a centralized computer
system. One copy of the information sent to the clerks office is placed in a
duplicate case file, while the second copy is entered into yet another computer
3 Note that a few years ago when I was trying to determine what
happened to each copy of a minute order, it was discovered that the court
administrative offices and the clerks office were entering the same

Information from the central computer systems can only be analyzed
using a 1970s vintage mainframe computer network that is controlled by a
centralized county data processing unit. The county DP unit is accountable to
neither the court nor the clerks office. Both agencies contract with the DP
unit for services, and are assigned a use priority by the county executive and
board of supervisors. Neither agencys work is considered high priority. The
reports generated by the system consist of large paged print-outs that provide
a description of each case ordered case by case and tallies of each case
During the past six years, concerted efforts have been made in Phoenix
to get the central DP unit to produce more useable information, specifically
information that can be converted into management reports by court staff using
modem desk top computer technology. To date, the report formats are still
being worked-out but management information is likely to become available
sometime in 1993 or 1994. In addition, in Phoenix -- as is the case in most
information into different parts of a centralized county managed computer
system. This meant that seven staff in the court administrators office had
been duplicating the work of a similar number of staff in the clerks office.
And they had been doing this for at least nine years. After considerable
negotiation, the court administration and clerks offices reached an
agreement that resulted in only one set of case data being entered into a
centralized system, and staff were reassigned to other activities.

courts where the county, state, or what-ever centralized government DP units
continue to promise to develop and implement a modem management
information system that will replace the temporary systems that have been
operating in many jurisdictions for as long as two decades the entire county
government DP function is being updated.
Finally, collection and production of information is only part of the
problem typically encountered in courts. Perhaps even more important, judges
continue to express great fear about how comparative caseload, case
processing time, and individual and aggregate court performance statistics, in
general, might be used. In short judges are reluctant to see data which could
be interpreted to mean that their performance might not match-up to that of
others, or that the court as a whole is not doing as well as other courts.
As the complexity of the interorganizational networks courts must
operate in increases, so does the need for effective communication among
units within the network (see e.g., Mahoney et al., 1988: 200). In particular,
the need for consistent, periodic, on-going, and two-way communications
within judge divisions, between judges and administrative staff, between the

local court and state court agencies, with the private bar, and with network
partners such as public defenders, prosecutors, and law enforcement officials,
have all increased. The need for increased communications encompasses both
day-to-day operational issues as well as general policy issues.
Still, the sophistication of communications within the seven study
jurisdictions was generally limited. In Dayton for example, the court tended
to sent-out directives to other justice system participants and did not really
involve other participants when policies arid procedures were being developed.
As one consequence, many participants within the court anticipated increased
resistance to the courts dictates as caseloads increased and the breathing-room
the court enjoyed compared to other courts disappeared. Formal
communications between the court and bar was especially lacking in many of
the study jurisdictions. Moreover, where formal communications mechanisms
such as bench-bar committees did exist, the court was often reluctant to
examine substantive issues with local lawyers. Often the court feared that
attorneys would undermine court policies, even before they were implemented,
if attorneys were allowed to participate early in policy formation. Similarly,
most of the courts included in the study were reluctant to establish on-going
communication mechanisms with outside organizations such as law

enforcement agencies, jail administrators, and social service providers.
Instead, interaction with these units usually was reserved for particular crises
such as periodic bouts with severe jail overcrowding. The common reason
given by court officials for not working with these other groups was that the
court did not want to appear to be encroaching on the "other guys turf."
In addition, with the exception of Phoenix and Detroit, communications
between judges and court staff were often limited. In most jurisdictions the
role of staff was viewed as one of supporting judges in the policies they had
formulated. Communication among judges within most of the courts
examined, in contrast, was facilitated by a variety of formal and informal
communications mechanisms. These mechanisms included a separate dining
area in the courthouse where judges could meet informally, monthly all court
judges meetings, annual retreats, and of course the vast informal network of
social and professional clubs common in many urban areas. Again, note that
even though the substantive content of communications varied greatly from
jurisdiction to jurisdiction, most of the communications among judges did not
focus on general court policy.
Systematic communication between the study courts and the public was
extremely limited. Typically, court administrative staff or the chief judge

would respond to public information requests when they occurred and lobby
interest groups when crises developed. The press too was generally avoided
when ever possible, in part as a result of perhaps justifiable fears that the press
was more interested in the very rare sensational case rather than the
complicated but comparative "unnewsworthy" routine of day-to-day justice
system operations.
Judicial Responsibility and Commitment
The author of the first multi-jurisdictional study of court delay a
1976-78 twenty-one court examination indicated that:
The most important element in starting and
achieving a delay reduction program is a shared
recognition in the court of the need to change
the pace of litigation and a resolve to achieve
that change. If one or only a few judges are
committed to reducing the overall time to
disposition, the chances of a program being
successful are reduced significantly (Sipes, 1980:
Subsequent studies have demonstrated that judicial commitment
manifests itself in at least three different ways. First, judges within in a court
generally agree that the court has the primary responsibility for ensuring an
expeditious pace of litigation. Second, committed courts have adopted

procedures and techniques that focus judges attention on the age and status
of cases. Third, judges hold lawyers to schedules previously set and are
unwilling to grant continuances routinely, even when none of the parties object
to a continuance request (see e.g., Mahoney et al., 1988; and Martin and
Prescott, 1981a).
Judges and administrators in each of the seven courts included in this
study were aware of the conventional judicial commitment dogma. Moreover,
judges in five of the seven courts Boston and Newark were the exceptions -
- in general embraced the notion that courts should be responsible for ensuring
expeditious case processing. In addition, in two of the courts, Detroit and
Dayton, considerable effort had been given to implementing court-wide
continuance policies.
However, judges in each of the seven courts also were quick to note
that at least three factors greatly impede efforts to ensure expeditious case
processing. First, there are very few judge oriented incentives for doing well.
In fact, in most courts the reward for doing well, that is the reward for
processing a caseload relatively rapidly, is being given an even larger
caseload; none of the courts in the study were in any danger of running out
of cases. As one consequence, judge bum-out for some portion of a court

becomes inevitable. Moreover, since judges are effectively appointed for life,
and the very small salary differences among judges within a court usually are
based on years of service, there are few traditional incentives for increased
Second, even in jurisdictions where judges might agree that it is the
courts responsibility to control the pace of litigation, attorneys routinely
believe that they should be in charge of when their cases are ripe for court
related activities. Less acknowledged but an additional important factor
underlying many attorneys beliefs about how the pace of litigation should be
controlled is the fact that some attorneys attempt to hang on to cases as long
as they can. More than a few attorneys in each of the seven study courts
admitted to project staff that it is difficult to bill a client if a case has been
completed. In addition, in all seven of the study jurisdictions the vast bulk of
the criminal case processing was handled by public defenders and prosecutors
offices which have few incentives for expeditious case processing.
Third, judges are attorneys. Judges are part of the local legal culture
and thus are not immune to the many pressures against expeditious case
processing present in many communities.

Role of Administrative Staff
In Phoenix and Detroit court administrative staff from all levels of
organization are heavily involved in all aspects of caseflow management
operations and policy formation. They also participate as both faculty and
pupils in on-going caseflow management training programs. In Phoenix,
judicial secretaries in particular play a strong case management role. Since the
court uses an individual calendaring system, each judges secretary handles the
scheduling of trials and other activities. To do this effectively, secretaries
have not only mastered their immediate duties but have also mastered
communications within the justice system and court community generally.
Also note that even though the conventional court management wisdom tends
to de-emphasize the importance of resources in court performance, the Phoenix
court enjoys a level of court support staff matched by few if any other trial
courts located in a large urban area. In addition to a well trained and
comparatively well paid secretary each judge also has a clerk.
The role of administrative staff varied greatly among the five other
study jurisdictions. As mentioned previously, in Dayton the role of
administrative staff was defined largely as support staff with little policy-
making voice. In Boston and Newark much of the administrative staff were

seen (perhaps often correctly) as political hacks enjoying the fruits of big city
patronage. Perhaps not too surprisingly, the particular role of staff was largely
defined by the needs and expectations of individual judges. In both
jurisdictions there was also considerable on-going tension between the local
court and the dreaded state court administration office. The state AOCs
routinely were seen by the local courts as centralized empire builders, who
despite a complete lack of understanding of local needs, nonetheless ruthlessly
attempted to expand their control over local jurisdictions. The state AOCs in
contrast viewed their roles as noble attempts to overcome local incompetence
and thus bring a semblance of justice to tough jurisdictions. The end result
of the conflict in both jurisdictions unquestionably contributes to each
jurisdictions generally poor performance.4
The role of administrative staff in Denver and Jersey City was far more
similar to that in Phoenix and Detroit than it was to that in Newark and
Boston. However, in both Denver and Jersey City administrative staff roles
were more concerned with traditional judge support activities rather than
4 In fairness to Newark it should also be acknowledged that after information
for this study was collected a person generally recognized as being one of the best
court administrators in the nation was hired and charged with making drastic
changes in the extremely difficult Newark environment.

caseflow management.
Caseflow Management Procedures
Judges and administrators in each of the seven study jurisdictions were
generally aware of the major pieces that should be included in caseflow
management procedures: (1) continuous monitoring by judges and court staff
of cases from filing (or arrest) to disposition; (2) rarely granting continuances;
(3) including court monitored events that force attorneys to meet with clients
shortly after case initiation, and; (4) working-out a comprehensive schedule of
all court-related events likely to occur during a case at the time of case
Still, few of the study jurisdictions had been able to implement the
major pieces of caseflow management in large part as a result of their inability
to overcome the sources of resistance examined in previous sections.
Specifically, only Dayton and Detroit had the record-keeping sophistication
needed to monitor cases from filing to disposition. Only in the Dayton,
Detroit, and Phoenix courts had judges and attorneys been either persuaded or
coerced to follow court wide policies and standards. In contrast, with the
exception of Dayton, all of the public defender and prosecutors offices in the