Showing posts from 2012

Big Data, Data Analytics, and the Access to Justice “Card”

It is not uncommon for court leaders and justice stakeholders to raise the access to justice “card” to subvert the closing or consolidation of courts.If you close this court -- the argument goes -- citizens will be denied access to justice. This is a strong argument because it typically evokes an emotional response irrespective of the information’s truth value, especially if the counter-arguments are couched in bland terms like efficiency and cost-savings. Trouble is that such arguments are heavy on rhetoric and light on hard evidence; and they often produce factionalism and political stalemate (see Court Consolidation in Mahoning County). 
In a 2005 survey of the public and of attorneys in California, respondents who were asked about eleven reasons that might keep someone from “going to court,” cited “travel distance to court from home” less often than eight of the other reasons including fees, cost of hiring an attorney, the time it takes to reach a decision, lack of child care, and …

The Courts’ Big Data: What If Only?

Close to 2.5 quintillion bytes of new data are created daily. ....Organizations know this data is rich in information and potential insight, but it’s as if they receive a fresh-minted library daily with answers to all their questions, except the books are written in languages they cannot understand.

The above words appeared in a full-page ad by IBM in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal under the headline “Watson Goes To Work.” The ad touted IBM’s Watson, the supercomputer Jeopardy! champion over two human challengers in a pop culture event in February 2011.Watson’s performance improved as the game progressed as it built on each bit of information acquired from each new clue and answer.Watson demonstrated the advanced form of computing IBM calls a cognitive system, “a system that is not simply programmed but is trained to learn based on interactions and outcomes.” 
The ad brought to mind a “what if” question my National Center for State colleague Jim MacMillan and I have been pondering for …

Animating Court Performance Measurement

We have failed to breathe life into the prescriptions for the performance measures that we exhort courts to use on a regular and continuous basis.

The connection between well known health indicators like blood pressure, cholesterol level, and blood glucose and our health and wellbeing is self-evident to most informed people.We know that these measures mean something vital and something very important to us. In my experience, the same cannot be said about the connection between such relatively common measures of court performance as time to disposition, trial date certainty, and collection of monetary penaltiesand fundamental justice and fairness (see Ten Reasons Not to Measure Court Performance, Made2Measure, November 19, 2008).Many judges and court managers see these measures as indicators of the relatively narrow concerns of those for whom it’s all about the numbers -- the number crunchers, the spreadsheet guys, and the IT folks who manage the case management system.These measures, q…

Measuring Procedural Justice

The rationale for measuring citizen/court user satisfaction has rested mostly on the argument that we should improve courts on the basis of what we learn from those served (or not so well served) by the courts, rather those who run the courts.Two new developments make this argument more compelling: the emergence of the theory of procedural justice (or procedural fairness) and the finding that our desire for being heard, for having a voice in matters, is hard-wired into our brains.

Procedural JusticeHere is what Kevin Burke, District Court Judge in Minnesota, current President of the American Judges Association, and a long-time proponent of court performance measurement, recently had to say about the importance of procedural fairness (Judicature, Viewpoint, May/June, Volume 95, Number 6, 251 -254):

Better performance is the key to building public support for the judiciary… A court or a judiciary that is as good as its promise is known not just for speed or efficiency (heaven knows many c…

Ensuring the Right Use of Performance Data: A Cautionary Tale from Health Care

Health care has provided lessons for court administration in the past (see Monitoring “Never Events in Court Administration, Made2Measure, September 23, 2008;Pursuing Perfection – A Lesson from Health Care, Made2Measure, November 1, 2006. This time it provides a cautionary tale, specifically for performance measurement and performance management.

The Story of PICS As reported in the Economist (“From petrol to prescriptions,” June 16, 2012. p. 65), the Queen Elizabeth hospital in Birmingham in the U.K. pioneered a new approach to patient care learned from the carmaker BMW’s engine assembly factory where over 99.9% of tasks were completed flawlessly. Big health systems in the U.K. and the U.S., in contrast, tolerate many more errors. Emulating BMW’s approach to manufacturing, the Birmingham hospital system installed a quality-control regime called PICS, which stands for “Prescribing, Information and Communication System.” PICS features a performance dashboard system on a computer screen …

Privacy Concerns Threatens Survey Research

In previous posts I’ve called for courts and justice systems to be good stewards of performance data.And, as an advocate of radical transparency, I’ve pushed for self-assessment and accountability by means of regular and continuous performance measurement and management instead of reliance on periodic third-party program evaluation and research.

Now comes another good reason for courts and other justice institutions to go that route. As reported by Carl Bialik, Census Gets Questions on Mandatory Queries, the Wall Street Journal’s “Numbers Guy,” members of Congress are challenging the Census Bureau’s massive data-collection effort known as the American Community Survey.The survey uses dozens of detailed questions – including the use of carpools, flush toilets, and wood fuel – to help determine the need for and distribution of funds of various government programs. The survey, which reaches 3.5 million households, is mandatory, a fact that gets close to 100% of the people to respond and …

The Causal Chain Linking Performance Measurement, Management and Development

In his 1993 book The Ecological Vision: Reflections on the American Condition, the social scientist and renowned management thinker Peter Drucker argued that there are no underdeveloped countries. The same thing can be said about a country’s justice system including courts and other justice institutions.

There are only “undermanaged” countries and justice systems. Management creates social and economic development.Wherever there are only capital and other resources (inputs), there can be no development.  Management is the process of getting people together for joint behavior to accomplish desired goals using available resources efficiently and effectively to produce desirable outputs and outcomes. Management is the driver; development is the consequence.Economic and social development is a matter of human energies, Drucker writes, and the inspiration and mobilization of human energies is the job of management. 
The last link in the causal chain is performance measurement. The familiar s…

Impediments in the Advance of Performance Measurement

The question How Are We Performing? lies at the heart of self-governance and effective leadership of courts. The capacity and political will to address this self-directed question regularly and continuously using the tools of performance measurement is the hallmark of a successful court organization. More and more court leaders and managers are turning to performance measurement to drive success. However, the trend is on a slow march impeded by two entrenched ways the judicial sector has tended to measure its success: (1) reliance on third-party monitoring and evaluations of court performance; and adherence to a research paradigm for assessing court performance.

Self-governance, transparency, and accountability of courts will depend on the degree to which these two impediments are attenuated. Court leaders will need to champion and support the self-assessment of performance by courts, instead of relying on third party evaluations. They will need to seek the replacement of the method…