Dec 1

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A ‘call to arms’ to improve case management

The plodding pace of civil litigation has concerned court officials and judicial policymakers for more than a century, and although technology and innovative initiatives have increased efficiency, the concern still exists, according to a newly released NCSC research paper.

The paper, titled Reimagining Civil Case Management, is “a call to arms” to improve case management, not only in civil courts but in criminal and family courts, said Paula Hannaford-Agor, the researcher who wrote the paper.

“With the pandemic, this issue is as relevant now as it has ever been,” Hannaford-Agor said. Pandemic-related backlogs in many state courts are severe, particularly involving civil cases.

NCSC’s Civil Justice Initiative and recent efforts that focus on family and criminal courts have also greatly increased interest in enhancing case management in state courts nationwide.

Where do we go from here?

The Reimagining Civil Case Management paper notes that there “is growing recognition of five core components of case management that will form the basis for continued study and refinement in the next several decades.”

These components include:

  • The use of triage to ensure that cases receive the amount of court attention necessary for their prompt, cost-effective and fair resolution.
  • A clear process to remove procedural barriers that unnecessarily complicate litigation.
  • Stakeholder engagement to build internal and external support for case management reform and to ensure clear communication about case management objectives at every stage of litigation.
  • Effective use of court staffing and technology resources. Courts must develop the administrative infrastructure to monitor and enforce compliance with court case management rules.
  • A commitment to data management and performance management. This commitment must start at the top. Numerous studies of high performing courts show that the single common denominator is having judges and other court leaders who are committed to reform and willing to take the necessary steps to implement it.

For effective civil case management to take root, Hannaford-Agor said primary responsibility must shift from individual judges to the court as an institution. This prevents case management from being viewed as “an idiosyncratic judicial quirk that will be discarded with the next bench rotation.”

“The immediate objective of civil case management,” the research paper concludes, “is better resource management through effective use of technology, efficient procedures and effective people-resource allocation. The ultimate goal is greater justice for all litigants served by the courts.”

Dec. 8 webinar to explore ways to advance, evaluate racial justice blueprints

Racial Blueprint Webinar

“What’s Next? Maintaining Momentum on the Path to Your Racial Justice Blueprint” is the second of several webinars focused on creating racial justice blueprints for courts. Register today for this webinar, which begins at 3 p.m. ET Wednesday, Dec. 8.

The first seminar, “Where Do We Begin: Lessons Learned on the Path to Creating a Racial Justice Blueprint,” focused on getting started on your court’s blueprint. This second webinar will explore how courts are approaching their blueprints and offer solutions to potential challenges.

The speakers will be Massachusetts Chief Justice Paula Carey, Kentucky State Court Administrator Laurie Dudgeon, New York Deputy Chief Administrative Judge Edwina Mendelson and Lisette McCormick, executive director of the Pennsylvania Interbranch Commission for Gender, Racial and Ethnic Fairness.

For more information, contact Tina Vagenas.