Data project may help courts deal with pandemic’s impact



Data project may help courts deal with pandemic’s impact

With support from the Conference of State Court Administrators and the Joint Technology Committee, NCSC recently oversaw a massive effort that will enable courts to more easily provide data to the public and help them become more efficient.

The work involved developing a set of definitions so courts can share data in a consistent way, whether they're in Memphis or Minneapolis. In the past, that couldn’t happen because state courts often defined seemingly clear-cut terms, such as domestic violence and trials, differently.

The project just released a Leadership Guide, which provides a project overview; a data elements spreadsheet with definitions and value lists; a User Guide of data elements in the spreadsheet, their use and mapping guidance; and technical notes.

Now the effort is moving to an implementation phase, and as the coronavirus pandemic has caused unprecedented backlogs in the courts, the timing couldn’t be better, said Nicole Waters, NCSC's director of Research Services.

“While courts are currently struggling with shifting caseloads and facing unprecedented backlogs, court data are now more than ever needed to tell the story about exactly what support courts need right now,” Waters said.

The effort, called the National Open Court Data Standards Project, was launched in 2018 and involved dozens of people from courts, academia and other organizations who met regularly to examine criminal, juvenile, family, dependency, civil, traffic and probate cases.

The ultimate goal is to enable courts to lead the way in defining its data for those who use it, to reduce misinterpretation, and to enhance data-driven decision making on important management and policy issues, including addressing challenges caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

“I’m looking forward to the next phase of this project where we’ll offer assistance to courts that want to implement the national standards,” Waters said. “The timeline may need to be fast-tracked as courts are looking for data now to help guide their plans to reopen their doors.”

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