Caseflow Management

Curriculum Guidelines Summary

What Court Leaders Need to Know and Be Able to Do

Working as a court executive leadership team, professional court managers and the judge(s) who head court systems and appellate and trial courts facilitate caseflow management.  The six areas of needed personal and technical knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) are:

Court Purposes and Vision

Caseflow management is a justice not an efficiency driven activity.  Caseflow management makes possible equal access, individual justice in individual cases, equal protection, and due process-- the appearance of individual justice in individual justice--predictability and regularity in case processing.  Justice delayed is justice denied because unnecessary delay destroys the purposes of courts.  The reasons are straightforward.

Excessive, unregulated time from filing to disposition and from court event to court event does not impact the parties equally.  Consequently, once cases are filed, impartial and independent courts and judges must take and maintain control over case progress by managing the time from filing to disposition and from event to event.  Related, in a witness dependant adversarial system, undue delay inevitably leads to the loss of memory.  When memory is lost, litigants and their advocates can neither remember nor find the facts.  When the facts are lost or forgotten, justice is impossible.  The objective of caseflow management is not faster and faster and more and more, it is justice.

And moving cases from filing to disposition is the most basic thing courts do.  This is what every other court work process supports.  Consequently, court leaders must conceive, communicate, and implement vision concerning effective and efficient case processing.  Effective court and justice system leadership means organizing and managing the court, its resources, and workflows around caseflow management.  Justice and the courts’ enduring purposes and responsibilities are served by vision and action concerning caseflow management.

Fundamentals

Understanding the relationship between the purposes of courts and effective caseflow and trial management is a fundamental as are time standards, alternative case scheduling and assignment systems, and case management techniques, including differentiated case management (DCM) and alternative dispute resolution (ADR).  While there are underlying caseflow principles, differing case types have differing case processing steps and dynamics.  Competent court leaders, both judges and court managers, understand the general principles, all case types, and how the principles apply to each case type.  They keep current with the successes and failures of other courts and know how to leverage external resources, current research, and others’ experience to case and trial management in their own court.

Leadership Teams and System-Wide Effectiveness

Caseflow management is a team sport that requires an effective court executive leadership team that includes the judge(s) in charge and court managers.  Effective case processing is a cooperative effort of judges and court staff and public and private litigants and lawyers, as well as law enforcement, social services, health, detention, and correctional organizations.  As court managers and judges in charge work together to improve case processing and jointly lead their court and justice system, they must understand that while caseflow management requires early and continuous court control of individual cases, the courts are dependent on others who have independent and distinct responsibilities in an interdependent justice system.  Competent caseflow management leadership requires recognition of the need for both interdependence and independence throughout the court and the justice system.

Change and Project Management

Effective caseflow is a moving target.  While the underlying purposes and case processing principles are constants, so are change and projects to bring about improvements.  Techniques and programs that once were innovative and effective do not work forever and require constant monitoring.  Caseflow management competency means skillful and continuous evaluation and problem identification.  Court leaders must oversee the evaluation of caseflow management problems through qualitative information and quantitative data and statistical analysis.  Once problems are identified and solutions are crafted and communicated, court leaders must successfully initiate and manage change.

Technology

Application of technology to caseflow is critical.  Tying information technology to caseflow management involves creating and maintaining records; supporting court management of pre-trial, trial and post-dispositional events, conferences and hearings; monitoring case progress; flagging cases for staff and judge attention; tracking trends; and providing needed management information and statistics.  To oversee the application of technology to caseflow, court leaders must understand both technology’s potential to improve case processing and its limitations.  Leading and managing what one does not understand at all is problematic at best.

Personal Intervention

Effective leadership of caseflow cannot be passive.  Neither day-to-day routines nor required change are self-executing.  Complex and interdependent processes carried out by people, departments, and organizations with independent responsibilities demand skilled and credible leadership.  To effectively lead the court, court leaders, especially the judge(s) in charge, must take responsibility for caseflow management and skillfully communicate with and manage others.   To do this, personal intervention is mandatory.

Click on each of the six Curriculum Guidelines to see the associated Knowledge, Skills and Abilities:

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