Problem-Solving Courts

Resource Guide

While the most widely recognized problem-solving court is the drug court, other examples include mental health courts, domestic violence courts, homeless courts, teen courts, tobacco courts, and some forms of family courts. Generally, a problem solving court involves a single judge that works with a community team to develop a case plan and closely monitor a defendant’s compliance, imposing proper sanctions when necessary.

Links to related online resources are listed below. Non-digitized publications may be borrowed from the NCSC Library; call numbers are provided.

Featured Links

Pianka, Hon. Raymond L. Cleveland Housing Court -- A Problem-Solving Court Adapts to New CHallenges . (2012). Future Trends in State Courts.
Since 1980, the Cleveland Housing Court has been developing unique solutions to Cleveland’s many and ever-changing housing challenges. It provides a model both for dedicated housing courts and for general courts seeking a problem-solving approach to nuisance abatement, foreclosure, vacancy, and abandonment.
Tallarico, Suzanne, Fred Cheesman, Mary Beth Kirven and Matthew Kleiman. Effective Justice Strategies in Wisconsin: A Report of Findings and Recommendations. (2012). National Center for State Courts.

This report provides information on effective court related strategies to address criminal and addictive behaviors. Information is provided on risk needs assessments, problem solving courts and collaborative justice system planning.

Casey, Pamela M., David B. Rottman and Chantal G. Bromage. Problem-Solving Justice Toolkit. (2007). National Center for State Courts.

This Toolkit offers a blueprint for using the problem-solving approach, a form of differentiated case management for cases involving recurring contacts with the justice system due to underlying medical and social problems.


Huddleston, C. West and Douglas B. Marlowe Painting the Current Picture: A National Report Card on Drug Courts and Other Problem Solving Court Programs in the United States. (June 2016). National Drug Court Institute This report provides a summary of the 2014 national survey of drug court and other problem solving courts.  The report found 3,057 treatment courts operating in 2014.
Hudson, Mary Kay Problem Solving Courts in Indiana . (May 2010). Indiana Court Times This article reviews existing problem solving courts and problem solving courts that are in the planning stage.
Smith, Jordan Niche Justice. (March 2010). The Austin Chronicle This article looks at the ten specialized courts operating in Austin and discusses the pros and cons.
America’s Problem Solving Courts: The Criminal Costs of Treatment and the Case for Reform. (September 2009). National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers This report examines the procedures used in problem-solving courts, highlights best practices, and makes recommendations for change based on analysis by the criminal defense bar.
Wolf, Robert V. Don`t Reinvent the Wheel: Lessons from Problem-Solving Courts. (2007). Center for Court Innovation This resource discusses problem-solving principles, strategies for problem-solving courts and obstacles.
Wolf, Robert V. Breaking with Tradition: Introducing Problem Solving in Conventional Courts. (2007). Center for Court Innovation This problem-solving courts resource provides guidance through problem-solving principles and practices, addresses concerns by judges, defense attorneys, prosecutors, and court administrators, and provides approaches to foster a problem-solving environment.
Wolf, Robert V. Principles of Problem-Solving Justice. (2007). Center for Court Innovation This resource introduces the fundamental concepts of problem-solving justice.  Topics covered include:  enhanced information, community engagement, collaboration, individualized justice, accountability and outcomes.
Wolf, Robert V. California`s Collaborative Justice Courts: Building a Problem-Solving Judiciary. (2005). Center for Court Innovation, Judicial Council of California and Administrative Office of the Courts This resource discusses collaborative justice and provides examples of Homeless, Peer, Drug, Domestic Violence, Mental Health, Community, and Juvenile Justice Collaborative Courts. 
Berman, Greg. The Hardest Sell? Problem-Solving Justice and the Challenges of Statewide Implementation. (2004). Center for Court Innovation This resource on problem-solving justice principles contains information on topics such as strategic investments and obstacles, as well as including information about a judicial survey.
Flango, Victor E. DWI Courts: The Newest Problem-Solving Courts. (2004). Future Trends in State Courts.

This article describes the work of new problem-solving courts created to deal specifically with the high incidence of traffic violations involving individuals under the influence of alcohol.

Hawaii's Opportunity Probation with Enforcement (HOPE). While not technically a problem solving court this experimental probation program applies many of the same components used in problem solving courts.
Sisario, Christine. Improving Outcomes Through Better Data Tracking: The Use of Technology in Problem-Solving Courts and Beyond. (2009). Future Trends in State Courts.

This article discusses how technology is used in a variety of ways to apply these innovations statewide.

Casey, Pamela M. and David B. Rottman. Problem Solving Courts: Models and Trends. (December 2003).

Models and Trends that offer a more meaningful resolution of court cases.

Flango, Victor. Problem-Solving Courts Under a Different Lens. (2007). Future Trends in State Courts.

This article highlights the basic principles of problem-solving courts, describes their historical development, includes a chart comparing and contrasting traditional courts versus problem-solving courts, and predicts the continued growth and increased specialization of problem-solving courts.

Lurigio, Arthur J. and Jessica Snowden. Putting Therapeutic Jurisprudence into Practice: The Growth, Operations, and Effectiveness of Mental Health Court. (2009). Justice System Journal (Vol. 30, No. 2).

This article analyzes the historical and legal background work of the mental health courts (therapeutic justice and drug treatment courts) as well as addresses the challenges of working with the mentally disabled before and after court proceedings. The article also "reviews studies fo MHC operations and effectiveness and suggests future directions for MHCs."

Griller, Gordon M. The Quiet Battle for Problem-Solving Courts. (2011). Future Trends in State Courts.

Many trial courts will face heightened scrutiny from public-funding bodies regarding problem-solving courts. Numerous studies support the cost-effectiveness of such courts, but some court watchers see a struggle looming on the horizon.

Wexler, David B. Therapeutic Jurisprudence: It's Not Just for Problem-Solving Courts and Calendars Anymore. (2004). Future Trends in State Courts.

This article describes the international movement in therapeutic jurisprudence, illustrating how it includes much more than just the problem-solving courts found in the United States.

Russell, Hon. Robert T. Veterans Treatment Courts Developing Throughout the Nation. (2009). Future Trends in State Courts.

This article discusses the growing number of veterans with a history of mental illness or substance abuse have been appearing in courts and how courts have begun to develop and implement veterans treatment courts to help veterans get their lives back on track.

Flango, Victor E. and Carol R. Flango. What's Happening With DWI Courts?. (2007). Future Trends in State Courts.

This article reports how DWI courts, being nurtured by federal funding, have sprung up at a rapid pace during the past five years. Although evolving as a branch of drug courts, specialized DWI courts have tended to take root and grow more rapidly in states not saturated with drug courts and states not suffering from the highest alcohol-related fatalities. The growth rate could be sustained with a more diversified funding base and the use of technology to reduce the cost of monitoring clients.

Problem-Solving Justice. Center for Court Innovation Problem-Solving Courts include community courts that seek to improve the quality of life in neighborhoods struggling with crime and disorder, drug courts that link addicted offenders to treatment instead of incarceration, and domestic violence courts that emphasize victim safety and defendant accountability


Farole, Donald J. et al. Problem-Solving and the American Bench: A National Survey of Trial Court Judges. (February 2008). Center for Court Innovation and the California Administrative Office of the Courts This report details the results of the first-ever national survey of judicial attitudes toward problem-solving justice. The survey included more than 1,000 trial court judges across the country. Among other findings, the results indicate that three in four judges approve of problem-solving methods.
Goldberg, Susan. Judging for the 21st Century: A Problem-Solving Approach. (2005). Ottawa: National Judicial Institute Handbook for judges comes from a Canadian perspective. It provides an introduction to therapeutic jurisprudence, practical suggestions for implementing therapeutic principles, and guidelines.
Arkfeld, Louraine C. Ethics for the Problem-Solving Court Judge: The New ABA Model Code. (2008). Justice System Journal (Vol. 28, No. 3).

This article details the different roles in problem-solving courts play as opposed to traditional judges, and examines the 2007 ABA Model Code in reference to problem-solving courts, specifically the unique ethical dilemmas judges in these courtrooms are prone to face.

Farole, Donald J. Jr. Problem Solving and the American Bench: A National Survey of Trial Court Judges. (2009). Justice System Journal (Vol. 30, No. 1).

This article presents the results of a nationwide survey of more than 1,000 trial court judges concerning the potential to apply specialized "problem-solving court" practices more broadly in conventional court settings.

Leben, Steve. Review of Winick and Wexler, Judging in a Therapeutic Key. (2005). Justice System Journal (Vol. 26, No. 1).

This article explores how the principles of therapeutic jurisprudence actually have been applied to the courts.

Reentry Court

Hamilton, Zachary Do Reentry Courts Reduce Recidivism. (March 2010). Center for Court Innovation This report compares Harlem Parole Reentry Court participants to similarly placed parolees under traditional supervision.
Macoubrie, Jane and Daniel J. Hall. Achieving the Full Potential of Reentry and Fathering Courts. (March 2010). National Center for State Courts.

This report reviews the fathering court movement and the convergence with reentry court programs.

Macoubrie, Jane. Converging Trends in Fathering and Reentry Courts. (2010). Future Trends in State Courts.

Fathering problem-solving courts are increasing across the country, as are programs for ex-prisoners. This article reviews the current state of the field, the diverse roles courts currently have, and discusses success factors not usually identified as best practices in problem-solving courts.

Research Evaluation

2013-2017 Strategic Plan for Nebraska Problem-Solving Courts. The Nebraska Problem-Solving Courts Leadership Group (November 2012). This strategic plan identifies the goals and policies required to implement research-based standards and procedures to ensure Nebraska’s Problem-Solving Courts effectively and efficiently serve the needs of high-risk offenders with addictions.
Cissner, Amanda B. and Donald J. Farole, Jr. Avoiding Failures of Implementation. (June 2009). Center for Court Innovation This report looks at common sources of failure in 13 projects involving “problem-solving justice” and provides a basic list of considerations that may help practitioners avoid some of the pitfalls.
Dosik, Susie Mason Transferability of the Anchorage Wellness Court Model. (September 2008). Alaska Judicial Counsel This study examines program outcomes such as recidivism, quality of life and productivity, cost effectiveness, and whether the program policies and practices are transferable to other courts.
Youth Courts. (2008). The George Washington University, Hamilton Fish Institute on School and Community Violence Reports and Essays Serial An Empirical Update and Analysis of Future Organizational and Research Needs, this report takes a look at youth in the juvenile justice system and evaluates the potential value of youth courts.
Carns, Teresa White, and Susan McKelvie. Recidivism in Alaska`s Felony Therapeutic Courts. (2007). Anchorage: Alaska Judicial Council Compares recidivism rates of offenders who participated the Anchorage Felony Driving Under the Influence, Anchorage Felony Drug, and Bethel Therapeutic Courts to recidivism rates of offenders who did not participate in therapeutic courts but who had similar characteristics as the participants, including substance abuse.See also, Criminal Recidivism in Alaska.
Carns, Teresa White et al. Therapeutic Justice Statewide Database. (2006). Anchorage: Alaska Judicial Council Design for statewide, web-based database for the court system, to be used by all therapeutic and problem-solving courts in Alaska. Includes description of data collection efforts and challenges; legal and confidentiality issues; proposed data elements; flowcharts; incentives and sanctions; and national guidelines for therapeutic court databases
Carns, Teresa White et al. Evaluation of the Outcomes in Three Therapeutic Courts. (2005). Anchorage: Alaska Judicial Council Evaluates outcomes in terms of days in incarceration, remands, and convictions for the Anchorage Felony Drug Court, Anchorage Felony DUI Court, and Bethel Therapeutic Court. Data showed improvements on all measures for graduates of the programs.
Wallace, David J. Do DWI Courts Work?. (2008). Future Trends in State Courts.

DWI courts are increasing in number exponentially across the country. Modeled after the effective approach of drug courts, DWI court evaluations appear to show impressive results on reducing recidivism.