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Timing of Justice in Felony Trial Courts

NCJ Number
Date Published
January 1987
28 pages
This study uses data from nine circuit courts in Illinois, Michigan, and Pennsylvania to develop a model for criminal court delay that encompasses microlevel and contextual factors.
With 1980 as the focal year, felony cases were drawn from each court, with the defendant as the unit of analysis. Of the 7,475 defendants, 6,500 had complete information on time-related variables; these cases were used in the study. The model's case-related variables were in the categories of case complexity, case strength, case seriousness, and defendant background. The disposition variables were jury trial, bench trial, dismissal, guilty plea, accelerated rehabilitative disposition, and deferred prosecution. Court policy and State contextual variables were the structure of the workgroup setting in courtrooms, calendar type, the control of court date scheduling, the length of the statutory term period for a speedy trial, and the 'bite' of the speedy trial law. Regression analysis of case-related and disposition variables was conducted for the nine courts. Analysis of covariance using stepwise multiple regression controlled simultaneously for the impact of the microlevel variables while examining contextual influences. The study indicates that felony case processing times can be usefully conceptualized as influenced by a set of nested proximate and contextual variables. 6 tables, 2 figures, and 34 references.

Date Published: January 1, 1987