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Recently released National Open Court Data Standards address data governance

July 6, 2020

The public and justice partners increasingly depend on ready access to data, and accurate and timely data are essential for public trust and confidence in the judiciary. Data are strategic assets of the courts and courts need strong data governance policies and practices.

In May 2020, the National Center for State Courts (NCSC), with support from the Conference of State Court Administrators (COSCA) and the Joint Technology Committee (JTC) completed the National Open Court Data Standards (NODS) project (www.ncsc.org/nods). The Standards were previously discussed in Trending Topics here.

Data governance is the framework by which courts reach and communicate organizational decisions around data, ensure that business activities and data management are synchronized, and develop and document long- and short-term strategies around the collection, use, and disposal of data. Data governance encompasses the people, court processes, and procedures that ensure that data are fit for managing cases, planning, and budgeting. Governance is about creating a culture around data creation and use, including how data rules are created and enforced and how disputes are resolved. Without strong data governance, courts risk wasting time and energy searching for missing information, collecting unnecessary information, correcting bad information, entering data redundantly, and making decisions repetitively and sometimes inconsistently.

In response to this need, the NCSC developed a resource guide to help courts create, evaluate, revise, and maintain good data governance policies and practices within the context of their own laws, rules, and regulations. The Data Governance Policy Guide examines

  • What is data governance and how can you make the case for it?
  • Getting started
  • Determining organizational structure and staffing, including discussion of a Data Governance Committee, a Chief Data Officer, and Data Quality Analysts
  • Life Cycle of Data, such as collection, storage, use, deletion/archive and breach management
  • Ensuring data quality: why is it important and best practices

In addition, the Data Governance materials include examples from various jurisdictions as well as recommendations and reports from the Joint Technology Committee.

NCSC invites court leaders, data specialists, data users, and others who rely upon court data to share their experiences with data and impart best practices to the court at drobinson@ncsc.org or NODS@ncsc.org.