The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that in fiscal 2011 states will face budget shortfalls as big as or bigger than this year’s deficits — perhaps as much as $180 billion. As states continue to grapple with the effects of the worst recession the nation has faced in more than six decades, funding for vital public services, including state courts, will continue to be thin for years to come.
Thanks to generous grants from the State Justice Institute (SJI) and the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), the National Center for State Courts has been able to work with a number of state supreme courts and court administrative offices to “reengineer” their state court systems. What these projects have in common is a desire by the state courts to reinvent themselves in ways that preserve their quality of justice and level of services while becoming dramatically more efficient. In these efforts, everything is on the table, including statutes, court rules, court structure, business process, use of technology, and staffing models.
The grants from SJI and BJA have enabled NCSC to identify and develop the steps and processes that courts should take in order to succeed in their reengineering efforts. Courts should start by gathering the right people to the table and instilling in them a sense of urgency. They must then develop a set of Principles – administrative, governance, and essential functions – that become the lens through which decisions are made.
Some related readings from Future Trends in State Courts 2010:
- Reengineering: The Importance of Establishing Principles - Thomas Clarke
- Reengineering: Governance and Structure - Thomas Clarke
- Reengineering: Lessons from the Field - Daniel J. Hall and Lee Suskin
In this ongoing effort to help the nation’s courts weather the current economic storm and prepare for an uncertain financial future, the National Center for State Courts either has worked with or currently is working with 10 states to reengineer their court systems. (See box, top right.)
"The courts recognize that things aren’t going to get back to whatever 'normal' is and that there will be less revenue in the future, and they are preparing for that," said Daniel J. Hall, vice president of the National Center’s Denver, Colo.-based Court Consulting Services.
Reengineering a court system involves evaluating and adjusting any number of court operations — from the structure of the court itself, to venue requirements, to its use of technology — to improve processes and save money while increasing efficiency and maintaining service levels to the public.
Any state court interested in learning more about reengineering should contact Hall via e-mail or at (303) 293-3063.