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A review and recommendations for calendaring/caseflow in Arkansas' Second Circuit

May 26, 2021

Amid the COVID pandemic last summer, courts were still trying to grapple with the best way to process and handle their caseloads and calendaring. NCSC staff examined Arkansas' Second Circuit and released its review of the court's Calendaring/Caseflow methods. The July 2020 report, funded by a grant from the State Justice Institute, made several recommendations for improvements based on best practices developed by the National Center.

Methodology: The NCSC project team examined data on court performance, conducted on-site observations in the Judicial District, and interviewed judges and court staff. The project team also conducted an online survey of all trial bar members to capture their viewpoints and opinions.

Current Court Calendaring Operations and Objectives in Restructuring and Simplifying a 2021 Court Calendaring System: The current system of calendaring cases is a lawyer-driven calendar. Continuances are easily granted. They assign cases using a complex plan in which senior judges have a preference in selecting case types with most handling at least two case types. Newer judges are assigned the remaining case types without the same regard to their preferences and no regard to their backgrounds. Also, many judges travel to courthouses far from their chambers or homes, and most judges visit the least populous and least busy courthouses on a scattered basis every year. Finally, cases do not have single judge-assignment continuity and may be adjudicated by multiple judges.

2021 Court Calendar Strategies: The second half of the report describes how court processes conform to NCSC best practices. The authors suggest improving judicial workload assignments, revamping or eliminating the term “approach”, and strengthening calendar control by judges and Trial Court Administrators. Other recommendations include ensuring court events are meaningful and realistic, lengthening judicial rotation to improve case continuity, triaging cases based on complexity and judicial resources, limiting and monitoring continuances.

NCSC offers some alternative suggestions for planning improvement:

  • Team plan. Work with team calendars that “…allow greater collegiality and mentoring/coaching among judge team members.”
  • Geographic plan (north/south county divisions). Split the Circuit into two parts for calendaring and judicial assignment purposes to improve internal court efficiencies and provide increased convenience and access for court customers.”
  • Case department plan (judges grouped by case type). Develop a process to determine how to allocate judges by case department.

For more resources in Caseflow, please see Caseflow Management Resource Guide. Follow the National Center for State Courts on FacebookTwitterInstagram, or Pinterest and share your experiences!

For more information, contact Knowledge@ncsc.org or call 800-616-6164.