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Analyzing Court Delay-Reduction Programs - Why Do Some Succeed?

NCJ Number
Judicature Volume: 65 Issue: 2 Dated: (August 1981) Pages: 58-75
Date Published
18 pages
This evaluation of court delay reduction programs reports in Detroit, Mich., Dayton, Ohio, Providence, R.I., and Las Vegas, Nev. found that these cities reduced delay dramatically despite their use of widely diverging methods for doing so.
The evaluation was done by impact analysis of delay reduction programs on the practices and operations of each court and its case processing time. Judges, prosecutors, public defenders, private attorneys, court administrators, and others were interviewed. These interviews provided a description of local court operations, a history of the delay reduction efforts, and an assessment of the actors' views of changes in their courts. Case processing time, obtained from official court records, was limited to 'time under the control of the trial court.' Viewing the four courts together, the study found that the most significant finding was the homogeneity of case treatment that appeared in the wake of delay reduction innovations. Increased similarity in the pace at which cases were handled was evident both across the four courts and within the courts. As the courts became more routinized in their handling of cases, they came to look more alike. Contributing factors to the success of delay reduction schemes are identified as lack of opposition, a nucleus of supportive local actors, incremental change, coercion from higher courts, improved communication, additional resources, consonance with local socio-legal culture, and incentives for the participants. Long-term persistence of the accomplished delay reduction remains to be determined. Delay should be viewed as a symptom of substantive, equitable, and managerial problems that exist within a particular court system rather than as the primary problem itself. Footnotes and box-and-whisker charts are provided.

Date Published: January 1, 1981