May 13, 2020
While various state courts, or divisions within state courts, have over time crafted their own strategic plans there are states in which the judiciary as a whole comes up with such a plan. Several such initiatives were released in the last year. Among them
All three plans were developed with individuals who play different roles in the judiciary. This was either through a pre-existing entity (Illinois' Judicial Conference; District of Columbia Courts' Courts’ Joint Committee on Judicial Administration, Strategic Planning Leadership Council) or a specialized committee appointed for this particular task. Participants included:
- Judges from every level of court (court of last resort, the intermediate appellate court [where applicable], and trial courts)
- The state court administrator
- Members of the state's access to justice entities
- Independently elected clerks (Arkansas and Illinois)
- Trial court administrators
- Court staff including court reporters, probation officials
Among the common themes in all three plans:
An emphasis on access: Illinois Goal 1, Arkansas Goal 2, and District of Columbia Goal 1 all discuss access to justice such as
- Improve and expand services and resources to assist self-represented litigants and non-English speaking court users. (Illinois)
- We will ensure that the judicial-branch facilities are accessible to all court users and that the public has meaningful and equal access to the justice system despite economic and geographic barriers. (Arkansas)
- Provide information and court documents in plain language and foreign languages through multiple platforms. (District of Columbia)
Technology as a focal point. Arkansas (Goal #5) and the District of Columbia (Goal #4) dedicated entire goals to Embracing Technology or creating Resilient and Responsive Technology while technology was intertwined in several Illinois goals.
- We will expand self-service options for court users, including webpages for local courts and interactive smartphone and tablet applications for use by courts, attorneys, parties, and jurors. (Arkansas)
- Use court performance data and technology to measure and enhance timeliness and operational efficiencies. (Illinois)
- Manage court processes and leverage technology to reduce the need for in-court appearances by parties and attorneys. (District of Columbia)
Some NCSC holdings and products in the area of strategic planning include:
- High Performance Court Framework: A framework developed by NCSC Staff Brian Ostrom and others to assist courts in improving their performance. The Framework has an emphasis on the need for strategic planning and the Summary Card has been used by courts as they have developed their own plans.
- Strategic Planning, a report prepared by NCSC Staff Patti Tobias and Donald Jacobson on their recent (2018) work in a Kansas judicial district.
- The Role of Strategic Planning and Strategic Management in the Courts, an ICM paper written by Peter Kiefer in 2016 as part of the ICM Fellow Program.