Independence, Accountability and Performance Measurement

In various policy statements and resolutions, the Nation’s state court leaders in the Conference of Chief Justices (CCJ) and the Conference of State Court Administrators (COSCA) link independence and accountability with organizational performance measurement. Most recently, with Joint Resolution 14, In Support of Measuring Court Performance, adopted on August 3, 2005, the Conferences first join independence and accountability by recognizing that accountability fosters an environment where legislators, executive agencies, and the public understand the judiciary’s role and are less likely to interfere with the judiciary’s ability to govern itself. The Conferences next make the link with performance measurement by declaring that “judiciaries need performance standards and measures that provide a balanced view of court performance in terms of prompt and efficient case administration, public access and service, equity and fairness, and effective and efficient management.”

This view reflects the policies of earlier resolutions by CCJ and COSCA in support of effective judicial governance and the independence of state judicial systems, as well as the performance standards in the area of Independence and Accountability of the 1995 Court Performance Standards, which are virtually endorsed or adopted in some form in all 50 states. (Of course, performance measurement is an integral part of most models and frameworks for strategic planning and quality management including Total Quality Management [TQM], the Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Award, ISO9000, Six Sigma, Balanced Scorecard, and the Business Excellence Model.)

Among other things in Resolution 14, CCJ and COSCA urge:

State courts to develop and test a balanced set of court performance measures using the models of the CourTools and the Six-Step Process for Building a Court Performance Measurement System (CPMS) developed by the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) and its colleagues; and
State courts to collaborate with the NCSC as these measures are developed to learn from the experiences of other court systems and, to the extent possible, encourage the use of consistent methodologies which are necessary for comparability.

In a recent review at the Ninth Court Technology Conference (CTC9) earlier this month in Seattle, my colleagues and I identified courts and court systems in nine states (Arizona, California, Delaware, Illinois, Minnesota, Nevada, North Carolina, Oregon and Utah) that have taken the innovations represented by the CourTools and the Six-Step Process into design and development, to testing and demonstration, and toward limited implementation and eventually institutionalization.

(Look for more on the Six-Step Process for Building a Court Performance Measurement System in future postings.)

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