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Case Processing Times in Three Courts

NCJ Number
Law and Policy Volume: 9 Issue: 2 Dated: (April 1987) Pages: 207-232
M L Luskin; R C Luskin
Date Published
26 pages
This paper examines the structural and case-level influences on processing times in three criminal courts experiencing structural changes, including a number of administrative reforms designed to reduce processing times.
Data were taken from samples of criminal cases initiated over roughly contemporaneous 2-year to 3-year periods (1976-1979) in Detroit, Mich.; Dayton, Ohio; and Providence, R.I. All the courts have been involved in federally sponsored court delay reduction projects. The model's case-related variables are participants' incentives to speed or slow the case, the case's complexity, and the event sequence the case follows as a function of participants' actions. Variables that reflect aspects of the court and its context are general incentives that derive from court structure, structural efficiencies versus inefficiencies, and the caseload. The model was used to develop a three-court equation to determine court processing time. There were similarities and differences between the courts, but generally many structural arrangements and case characteristics affected processing times, with some case characteristics having different effects under varying structural arrangements. Some structural arrangements affected case types differently. Findings suggest two broad approaches for reducing processing times: reformers may shift distributions of case-level variables or modify the court's structural arrangements. A case track featuring heavily reinforced deadlines appears promising. 3 tables, 18 notes, and 38 references.


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