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Backlog reduction simulator leans on new data to deliver better insights to courts

Backlog reduction simulator leans on new data to deliver better insights to courts

June 21, 2023 -- Last year, NCSC rolled out the Court Backlog Reduction Simulator, an interactive tool to help courts tackle case backlogs. By entering performance data on pending cases, filings, and dispositions, courts can identify where backlogs exist across case types and develop potential interventions.

When initially launched, the tool provided courts with a forecast of future pending caseloads. The tool now has a feature that lets courts factor in timeliness (or aging) to provide greater insights into how historical case backlogs can impact the future.

“NCSC defines backlog as cases pending beyond a time standard. This new feature reflects that definition, making it possible to forecast the share of pending cases that may be in backlog status going forward. If backlogs are expected to grow under current conditions, courts can target those cases for intervention,” said NCSC Senior Court Research Associate Kelly Roberts Freeman.

The simulator uses NCSC’s longstanding model time standards to provide a solid baseline for courts to work toward.

“Model time standards help define and measure backlog consistently,” Roberts Freeman said.

By first selecting the case type of interest, simulator users can click on the “Aging” button to see the key time frames to include (e.g., 0-90 days, over 365 days, etc.). Alternatively, users can use the “other” case type to enter their own aging categories or time standards.

Court administration in El Paso, Texas, was one of the organizations that piloted an early version of the tool.

“The court expects an increase in filings this year, so we modified the filings on the backlog simulator tool and determined our projection and how it would affect our pending caseload if we maintained the exact disposition count,” said District Court Administrator Crystal Lozano. “We know what might happen if the filings increase, so we can now plan and develop new processes to change the outcomes.”

NCSC is monitoring the simulator’s use and continues to gather feedback to enhance the tool, according to Nora Sydow, an NCSC Court Consulting Services managing director.

“So far, one lesson learned is that courts have a strong desire to connect the backlog reduction simulator to their case management system for automatic updates,” Sydow said. “Courts could also benefit from additional resources that will help them use data for forecasting and intervention planning. We need to continue to build evidence of what solutions have worked to reduce backlog.”

NCSC will be offering backlog reduction learning labs on discrete topics as additional support in the coming months. Be on the lookout for details this summer.

Take the first step toward improving case processing with the Court Backlog Reduction Simulator today!