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Efficiency, Timeliness, and Quality: A New Perspective From Nine State Criminal Trial Courts, Research in Brief

NCJ Number
Date Published
June 2000
12 pages
Publication Series
This study identified factors that influenced the timeliness and quality of felony case processing in State criminal court systems in Albuquerque, N.M.; Birmingham, Ala.; Cincinnati, Ohio; Grand Rapids, Mich.; Hackensack, N.J.; Oakland, Calif.; Portland, Ore.; and Sacramento, Calif.
In each jurisdiction, researchers analyzed approximately 400 felony cases that reached resolution in 1994. To test the influence of factors believed to affect case processing time, the study measured the relative impact of each factor, alone and in combination, within and across all jurisdictions. Researchers also interviewed and surveyed judges, attorneys, and other court officials to ascertain attitudes toward court resources, management, and the skills and tactics of opposing counsel. Researchers then compared these opinions with the overall processing speed of their respective jurisdictions. The study found that meaningful and effective advocacy was more likely to occur in criminal justice systems where case resolution was the most timely. The relative pace of litigation depended largely on the local legal culture, i.e., the expectations and attitudes of judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys. In the more expeditious courts, personnel had more efficient work orientations, including clear case processing time goals. Attorneys in these courts had more positive views about resources, management policies, and the skill and tactics of their opposition than did their counterparts in less expeditious courts. The combined influence of four factors -- a violent felony charge, the issuance of a bench warrant, pretrial release on bond, and resolution by trial -- produced a significant increase in case processing time in all nine courts. The study concludes that all courts can become more efficient by maximizing attorney skills, management techniques, and available technology. Increases in efficiency will simultaneously improve the timeliness and quality of felony case processing. 4 exhibits and 16 notes

Date Published: June 1, 2000