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More and more courts recognizing the need for performance data to improve operations. The May Trends in State Courts article discusses using such data to bring courts out of the “stone age.”

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Trends in State Courts 2013
SO YOU THINK YOU KNOW WHAT A CASE IS?

JOHN T. MATTHIAS
Principal Court MANAGEMENT CONSULTANT
National center for state courts

Courts devote resources to managing standard court case types (e.g., criminal, traffic, juvenile, domestic, civil, and appeals), primarily by using and maintaining a case management system. Other case types—auxiliary and administrative—need similar case management automation for the same reasons.

Virtually all full-time courts in the United States have developed or licensed a case management system (CMS) to help them manage various case types, and this should include case-like matters not traditionally thought of as cases.

What Is a Case?
People who work in courts assume they know what a case is. Considering the larger universe of case types, a more general definition of “case” is:

a specific situation, set of circumstances, or initiative that requires a set of actions to achieve an acceptable outcome or objective. Each case has a subject that is the focus of the actions—such as a person, a lawsuit, or an insurance claim—and is driven by the evolving circumstances of the subject (Swenson, 2012: 218).

A case is created by some part of the organization to handle a business problem, with a goal to be achieved before closure. Once initiated, the case “takes on a life of its own.” The case’s owner achieves the organizational goal and produces value for the customer or subject of the case. Human participants—knowledge workers—perform their roles with respect to each case.

Criminal, traffic, juvenile, domestic, civil, and appellate case types obviously meet this “case” definition, and we may call them standard or traditional court case types. Standard case types in appellate courts include appeals from trial and intermediate appellate courts, appeals from administrative agencies, original proceedings, and disciplinary matters involving the bench and bar.

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