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Understanding Court Culture and Improving Court Performance in 12 Courts in California, Florida, and Minnesota, 2002 (ICPSR 20366) RSS

Principal Investigator(s):

Summary:

The purpose of this study was to examine the organizational culture in 12 felony criminal trial courts selected in 3 states and to gauge prosecuting and public defender attorneys' views on how well the courts in which they practice achieve the goals of access, fairness, and managerial effectiveness. Data on organizational culture in each of the 12 courts (Part 1) were obtained by administering the Court Culture Assessment Instrument (CCAI) to all judges with a felony criminal court docket and to all senior court administrators. A total of 224 respondents completed the questionnaire. Additionally, surveys were conducted of prosecuting attorneys (Part 2) and public defender attorneys (Part 3) to gauge their views on how well the courts in which they practice achieve the goals of access, fairness, and managerial effectiveness. A total of 334 prosecuting attorneys and 260 public defense attorneys completed the 46-item trial court process survey. Part 1 contains 40 variables pertaining to 5 dimensions of current and preferred court culture. Variables in Part 2 and Part 3 each include seven items from a jurisdictional practice scale, eight items from a procedural fairness scale, seven items from a resource scale, nine items from a management scale, nine items from a practitioner competence scale, and six items from a court access scale.

Access Notes

  • One or more files in this study are not available for download due to special restrictions ; consult the restrictions note to learn more. You can apply online for access to the data. A login is required to apply for access.

    A downloadable version of data for this study is available however, certain identifying information in the downloadable version may have been masked or edited to protect respondent privacy. Additional data not included in the downloadable version are available in a restricted version of this data collection. For more information about the differences between the downloadable data and the restricted data for this study, please refer to the codebook notes section of the PDF codebook. Users interested in obtaining restricted data must complete and sign a Restricted Data Use Agreement, describe the research project and data protection plan, and obtain IRB approval or notice of exemption for their research.

Dataset(s)

DS0:  Study-Level Files
DS1:  Court Culture Data - Download All Files (2,408 KB)
DS2:  Prosecutor Data - Download All Files (2,624 KB)
DS3:  Public Defender Data - Download All Files (2,576 KB)

Study Description

Citation

Ostrom, Brian J., Charles W. Ostrom, Roger A. Hanson, and Matthew Kleiman. Understanding Court Culture and Improving Court Performance in 12 Courts in California, Florida, and Minnesota, 2002. ICPSR20366-v1. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2008-08-25. doi:10.3886/ICPSR20366.v1

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Funding

This study was funded by:

  • United States Department of Justice. Office of Justice Programs. National Institute of Justice (2000-IJ-CX-0030)

Scope of Study

Subject Terms:   administration, administrators, attorneys, case management, case processing, court cases, court system, courts, criminal courts, felony courts, judges, management styles, organizational behavior, organizational culture, organizational structure, prosecuting attorneys, public defenders, trial courts

Smallest Geographic Unit:   county

Geographic Coverage:   California, Florida, Minnesota, United States

Time Period:  

  • 2002-04--2002-08

Date of Collection:  

  • 2002-04--2002-08

Unit of Observation:   individual

Universe:   Part 1: All judges with a felony criminal court docket and all senior court administrators in 12 counties in California, Florida, or Minnesota between April 2002 and August 2002. Part 2: All prosecuting attorneys with two years or more experience in representing the state or criminal defendants in felony cases in 12 counties in California, Florida, or Minnesota between April 2002 and August 2002. Part 3: All defense attorneys with two years or more experience in representing the state or criminal defendants in felony cases in 12 counties in California, Florida, or Minnesota between April 2002 and August 2002.

Data Types:   Survey data

Data Collection Notes:

(1) Court performance data and case records are not available as part of this collection.

Methodology

Study Purpose:   Four cultural orientations shape the conduct and performance of American state felony criminal trial courts. Communal, networked, autonomous, and hierarchical culture types each constitute a particular way of completing work-related responsibilities common to all courts, such as handling cases, managing relationships between judges and court staff, and exercising courthouse leadership. The purpose of this study was to examine the organizational culture in 12 felony criminal trial courts selected in 3 states and to gauge prosecuting and public defender attorneys' views on how well the courts in which they practice achieve the goals of access, fairness, and managerial effectiveness.

Study Design:  

Data on organizational culture in each of the 12 courts (Part 1) were obtained by administering the Court Culture Assessment Instrument (CCAI) to all judges with a felony criminal court docket and to all senior court administrators. A total of 224 respondents completed the questionnaire. The CCAI was used to assess five key dimensions of current court culture orientation: (1) dominant case management style, (2) judicial and court staff relations, (3) change management, (4) courthouse leadership, and (5) internal organization. The determination of what culture judges and court administrators desired to establish in the near future was also obtained through the application of the same instrument (CACI) as practitioners were asked to indicate the type of culture in each work area (or content dimension) they would like to see in their court in the next five years.

Additionally, surveys were conducted of prosecuting attorneys (Part 2) and public defender attorneys (Part 3) to gauge their views on how well the courts in which they practice achieve the goals of access, fairness, and managerial effectiveness. Every prosecutor and public defender with two years or more experience in representing the state or criminal defendants in felony cases was asked to complete a questionnaire probing their thoughts on how well their court acted to promote access to records through availability and staff cooperation, treating litigants, witnesses, jurors and others fairly, and demonstrating concern for the rights and interests of others in the criminal trial process, including attorney and victims. A total of 334 prosecuting attorneys and 260 public defense attorneys completed the 46-item trial court process survey.

Sample:  

Regarding site selection, the 3 states and corresponding 12 courts were chosen purposively, not randomly. Because the research entailed the completion of questionnaires by judges, court administrators, and attorneys, the researchers deliberately chose jurisdictions where needed cooperation was expected to be forthcoming and that represented both different contexts and traditions. Participation by the courts in the research does speak to their "open" nature and willingness to cast light on "inner workings" seldom captured in most studies of judicial decision making (e.g., plea bargaining sentencing), performance, or timeliness. Consequently, the conceptual framework and the array of cultures among the twelve courts might be limited in generality to other "open" courts in the rest of the country. That limitation is hardly acute given the current paucity of information on what makes up culture. Future research can determine whether a random sample within the subpopulation of "open" courts produces results consistent or divergent with this initial study.

The researchers selected 12 felony criminal trial courts from the states of California, Florida and Minnesota. In California, the research sites were the Superior Courts for Contra Costa, Napa and Ventura Counties. Florida's sites were the Circuit Courts for Duval and Pinellas Counties. In Minnesota, six county-wide District Courts were selected, including Dakota, Hennepin, Kandiyohi, Olmsted and Ramsey. Within St. Louis County, Minnesota, the trial courts for the cities of Duluth and Virginia participated in the study. All of these courts handle "serious" criminal matters, cases in which a convicted defendant can be sentenced to prison for one or more years.

In regards to the selection of respondents, the sample of respondents for Part 1 consisted of all judges with a felony criminal court docket and to all senior court administrators in 12 counties in California, Florida, or Minnesota between April 2002 and August 2002. The sample for Part 2 included all prosecuting attorneys with two years or more experience in representing the state or criminal defendants in felony cases in 12 counties in California, Florida, or Minnesota between April 2002 and August 2002. The sample for Part 3 included all defense attorneys with two years or more experience in representing the state or criminal defendants in felony cases in 12 counties in California, Florida, or Minnesota between April 2002 and August 2002.

Weight:   none

Mode of Data Collection:   Mail questionnaire

Data Source:

Data were obtained from written surveys.

Description of Variables:  

Part 1 contains 40 variables pertaining to 5 dimensions of current and preferred court culture. Specifically, variables in Part 1 include current and preferred dominant case management style, current and preferred judicial and court staff relations, current and preferred change management, current and preferred courthouse leadership, and current and preferred internal organization. Other variables in Part 1 include county, judge if the respondent was a judge, court administrator if the respondent was a court administrator, and years of experience.

Variables in Part 2 and Part 3 each include seven items from a jurisdictional practice scale, eight items from a procedural fairness scale, seven items from a resource scale, nine items from a management scale, nine items from a practitioner competence scale, and six items from a court access scale. The jurisdictional practice scale contains variables pertaining to delay in adjudication, charging procedures, prosecutor and public defender discovery practices, court monitored progress of felony cases, as well as prosecutor's and defense attorney's plea bargaining policies. The procedural fairness scale contains items focusing attention on the amount of time given to cases, representativeness of juries, protection of constitutional rights, provision of effective representation, equity, attention given to circumstances of individual cases, a concern for rendering comprehensible rulings, and the enforcement of orders. The resource scale includes four variables relating to disposing of felony cases, as well as variables pertaining to office budget, fair compensation, and adequate facilities. The management scale includes existence of clear goals, the court's effectiveness on communication, effective judicial leadership, effective leadership by the prosecutor, effective leadership among indigent criminal defense attorneys, continuances, victim awareness, the court's ability to work with other components of the criminal justice system, and expenditure of public resources. The practitioner competence scale includes the prosecutors', public defenders', and privately retained criminal defense attorneys' experience with felony cases, preparation for felony hearings and trials, and felony trial skills. The court access scale contains variables on the accuracy and availability of court records, safety and accessibility of the courthouse, ease of obtaining case information, ease of understanding court proceedings, sensitivity to the concerns of the average citizen, and helpful and courteous personnel.

Response Rates:   Part 1: Of the 379 surveys sent, a total of 224 respondents completed the survey, yielding a response rate of 59.1 percent. Part 2: Of the 458 surveys sent, a total of 334 prosecuting attorneys completed the survey, yielding a response rate of 72.9 percent. Part 3: Of the 380 surveys sent, a total of 260 public defense attorneys completed the survey, yielding a response rate of 68.4 percent.

Presence of Common Scales:   Several Likert-type scales were used. An ipsative rating scale was used for assessments of cultural orientation.

Extent of Processing:  ICPSR data undergo a confidentiality review and are altered when necessary to limit the risk of disclosure. ICPSR also routinely creates ready-to-go data files along with setups in the major statistical software formats as well as standard codebooks to accompany the data. In addition to these procedures, ICPSR performed the following processing steps for this data collection:

  • Standardized missing values.
  • Checked for undocumented or out-of-range codes.

Version(s)

Original ICPSR Release:  

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