Case Management banner image

Case management for the pandemic era

By Alicia Davis and Bill Raftery

The latest work conducted by the Conference of Chief Justices’ and Conference of State Court Administrators’ Rapid Response Team (RRT), staffed by NCSC, offers insights in terms of what case management now looks like in the pandemic era. In 2004, the National Center released Caseflow Management: The Heart of Court Management in the New Millennium arguing, in part, that caseflow management was one of, if not the central pillar to modern court administration. If nothing else, the pandemic and its aftermath have reaffirmed the importance of caseflow management in terms of court management.

Based on work in Georgia, Indiana, Texas, and Pennsylvania courts, much of which can be found here, the Case Management Lab examined four overarching themes across civil, criminal, and family case management:

  • need for better use of data;
  • site objectives centered on triage and time standards;
  • caseflow management and case management systems; and
  • business process mapping and simplification.

A key element to the work of the Lab was in the area of backlog reduction planning. Among the recommendations:

  1. Define what is meant by “backlog” as different courts use different definitions of the term.
  2. Planning should begin with the consideration of time standards.
  3. Apply the Twelve Essential Steps to Tackle Backlog and Prepare for a Surge in New Civil Cases. Developed in July 2020, it provides critical elements on how to address civil caseloads.
  4. Triage, which is placing cases on tracks and notifying litigants of the best method to process their case can help move the deliberation process along. Examples can be found through the Civil Justice Initiative and The Cady Initiative for Family Justice Reform.
  5. Courts should use data dashboards and identify their own most important metrics. Courts should also decide how those metrics should be displayed and decide which metrics should be public-facing.
  6. Creative staffing solutions: whether that takes the form of Court Case Management Teams or the use of Special Masters, staff have to be part of the backlog equation. As Judge Jennifer Bailey, presiding judge of Miami-Dade Civil has said: “you can’t judge your way out of a backlog.”

What are your courts doing to address backlogs in your dockets? Let us know at Knowledge@ncsc.org or call 800-616-6164. You can also speak to Alicia Davis, an NCSC consultant on this topic. Follow the National Center for State Courts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Vimeo.