Competency Accountability and Court Performance
Being a good manager means being able to monitor performance–to identify what is working well and what is not. The judiciary relies on this aspect of court management, as does the public, to ensure optimum court performance. Ensuring accountability, measuring performance and applying performance measures to court practices are not new concepts. This commitment to delivering fair and speedy justice and improving accountability to the public dates back to the 1970s with the publication of the American Bar Association Time Standards (1976) 1 and the COSCA Time Standards (1983). 2 Over the last several decades, a number of tools have been developed and refined to help court leaders measure and manage performance, such as the Trial Court Performance Standards (1990); 3 Appellate Court Performance Measures (2009); 4 CourTools (2005); 5 the High Performance Court Framework (2010); 6 and the Principles for Judicial Administration (2012). 7 These documents provide a solid foundation for the court community to help court leaders both measure and manage performance. However, tools alone are simply that–tools–court leaders must be able to apply the tools skillfully to move from performance measurement to performance management.
In terms of court operations and services, what is measured and how it is measured depends on the specific context and environment in which a court operates. Nevertheless, to effectively measure and manage performance, court leaders, regardless of their specific function(s) or environments, should work to achieve the competency in:
- Analytic skills to organize, collect and analyze data.
- Management skills focused on applying the knowledge gained from the analysis of data to improve the performance of court operations.
- Communication skills to convey information about performance.
Court leaders who are effective at measuring and managing performance should be able to:
- Address Expectations — identify, understand and apply performance measures that address litigant expectations that the court process is clear, well designed and procedurally fair. The outcome is connected to the key court events and the administrative practices ensure the court process is purposeful and deliberative.
- Address Effectiveness — identify, understand and apply performance measures that address the effectiveness of court procedures in the handling of cases, such as avoiding unnecessary litigation costs and time, while evaluating how court operations balance the desire for appropriate attention given to every case with the concurrent responsibility to treat cases proportionately, given the limitation of resources and growing caseload demands.
- Address Efficiency — identify, understand and apply performance measures and targeted benchmarks that reveal how well court resources are allocated, whether the court’s processes and procedures are efficient and the level of productivity of judges and court staff collectively in reducing time to disposition and eliminating unnecessary actions that do not contribute toward the disposition of a case or delivery of services to litigants and others requiring court services.
- Diagnose Results — apply the results of performance measurement activities to improve court performance, identify areas of work warranting correction and suggest what practices call for modifications.
- Organize and Present Data — present the results of performance measurement activities in a format that promotes understanding and use by judges, court staff, justice system partners and the public.
- Effectively Communicate — communicate to the public and its public policy partners the performance of the court in carrying out its constitutional duties, performing the necessary operational responsibilities and meeting the expectations of the public and court’s public policy partners and areas warranting improvement.
- Integrate Results to Promote a System Orientation for On-going Improvement of Court operations and services — incorporate the principles and methods of performance measurement into all aspects of court operations that are focused on accountability, continuous improvement and enhancing knowledge through managing for results and responding to changing circumstances.
- Efficiently Gather Information — use appropriate methods to gather information, to identify problems, determine the critical questions to ask and identify data requirements and data sources needed.
- Organize Data — collect and store data in a form that facilitates the analytical process: identify trends and patterns and distinguish between relevant and irrelevant information.
- Develop Meaningful and Valid Data Analysis — identify cause and effect relationships, determine the authenticity and validity of sources of information, identify gaps in information and present findings, conclusions and recommendations in a well-organized, clear and meaningful format to facilitate review and understanding by the decision-makers who are asked to act.
- Disseminate Information to Different Audiences — synthesize and present information adapted to targeted audiences: judges, staff, justice system partners, funders and the public, to promote new perspectives.
- Use Data To Drive Management Decisions — within the framework of recognized standards of practice.
- Provide link to ABA Time Standards (9176) ↩
- Provide Link to COSCA Time Standards (1983) ↩
- Provide Link to Trial Court Performance Standards (1990) ↩
- Provide link to Appellate Court Performance Measures (2009) ↩
- Provide link to CourTools (2005) ↩
- Provide link to “High Performance Court Framework (2010) ↩
- Provide link to Principles for Judicial Administration (2012) ↩