Alternative Procedures for Reducing Delays in Criminal Appeals: Sacramento, Springfield, and Rhode Island, 1983-1984 (ICPSR 9965)

Published: Feb 17, 1994

Principal Investigator(s):
Joy A. Chapper, Justice Resources; Roger A. Hanson, Justice Resources

Version V1

This data collection investigates the effectiveness of alternative approaches to reducing delays in criminal appeals. Interviews were conducted with court representatives from districts employing differing alternatives. These districts and approaches are (1) case management in the Illinois Appellate Court, Fourth District, in Springfield, (2) staff screening for submission without oral argument in the California Court of Appeals, Third District, in Sacramento, and (3) fast-tracking procedures in the Rhode Island Supreme Court. Parallel interviews were conducted in public defenders' offices in three additional locations: Colorado, the District of Columbia, and Minnesota. Questions focused on the backlogs courts were facing, the reasons for the backlogs, and the consequences. Participants were asked about the fairness and possible consequences of procedures employed by their courts and other courts in this study. Case data were acquired from court records of the Springfield, Sacramento, and Rhode Island courts.

Chapper, Joy A., and Hanson, Roger A. Alternative Procedures for Reducing Delays in Criminal Appeals:  Sacramento, Springfield, and Rhode Island, 1983-1984. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 1994-02-17.

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United States Department of Justice. Office of Justice Programs. National Institute of Justice (85-IJ-CX-0051)

1983 -- 1984


Justice Resources conducted this study in response to the growing caseload backlog in state criminal appellate courts. The criminal appeals process is a vital feature of the legal system because it challenges lower court convictions, thereby further ensuring due process. Recently the volume of appeals has been increasing at a much higher rate than crime, arrests, and prosecutions. Criminal appellate courts have been forced to modify their procedures in response to increasing caseloads. Since very little was known about these modified procedures, this study was conducted to examine three alternatives that have become settled policy in the courts that employ them. The purpose of the study was to clarify problems with such procedures and to gauge the prospects for further successful appellate reform. A procedure called "case management," used in the Illinois Appellate Court, Fourth District, in Springfield was chosen as a subject for this study. With this process, every appeal was given an achievable time frame. Deadlines were made clear in a scheduling order which was strictly enforced. Also selected was the California Court of Appeals, Third District, in Sacramento for its procedure of "staff screening for submission without oral argument." This process was meant to reduce the amount of time spent on nonargued appeals. Time prior to briefing was not affected. Each case was reviewed by a three-judge panel which recommended a waiver of argument if it felt argument was not necessary. If argument was waived, the appeal was simply submitted to the same panel for decision. All other cases were tried on a regular argument calendar. The Rhode Island Supreme Court was selected because it employed "fast-tracking procedures," which focused on cases that did not require full briefing. Cases that did not require full briefing were identified by individual justices. After counsel was consulted, these cases were put on a "show-cause" calendar. These cases were submitted for decision with limited written statements and argument on a motions calendar. The other cases proceeded with briefing and argument in a normal fashion. Participants from each court were interviewed, and case data were collected from their court records.

Interviews were conducted with judges, attorneys, court clerks, and other court staff from the California Court of Appeals, Third District, in Sacramento, the Illinois Appellate Court, Third District, in Springfield, and the Rhode Island Supreme Court. Letters were sent to each of these courts requesting interviews. Interviews were then conducted in person and lasted 45 minutes to an hour. Twenty individuals were interviewed from the Rhode Island Supreme Court, 69 from the court in Sacramento, and 38 from the Springfield court, yielding a total of 127 individuals. Case data were collected from court records in each of these courts. A total of 1,059 cases were chosen, 138 from Rhode Island, 587 from Sacramento, and 334 from Illinois.

The three court districts in this study were chosen because they employed alternative procedures to reduce delays in criminal appeals, because the different approaches were succeeding, and because the approaches were representative of alternatives in dealing with criminal appeals. Attempts were made to interview individuals in varying positions in the appeals courts.

Judges, attorneys, staff, and criminal appeal cases in the California Court of Appeals, Third District, in Sacramento, the Illinois Appellate Court, Fourth District, in Springfield, and the Rhode Island Supreme Court.


personal interviews, and court records

survey data, and event/transaction data

Interviews covered opinions concerning the alternative procedures as they affected the quality of justice, the amount of time these procedures saved, and the possible benefits and deficiencies of modified appeals processes. Case data variables include the dates upon which various steps of the appeals process were completed, decisions and outcomes of cases, and length of briefs filed for individual appeals.

Not applicable.

Several Likert-type scales were used.



1993-10-02 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:

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


  • The public-use data files in this collection are available for access by the general public. Access does not require affiliation with an ICPSR member institution.

  • The citation of this study may have changed due to the new version control system that has been implemented.
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This dataset is maintained and distributed by the National Archive of Criminal Justice Data (NACJD), the criminal justice archive within ICPSR. NACJD is primarily sponsored by three agencies within the U.S. Department of Justice: the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Institute of Justice, and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.