The purpose of this study was to examine
caseflow management in order to reduce delays in urban trial courts.
Data were gathered on civil and criminal case processing times across
a broad range of courts, and changes in case processing times over a
period of years were analyzed for 18 different jurisdictions: Newark,
Pittsburgh, New Orleans, Miami, Wayne County, Minneapolis, the Bronx,
Phoenix, Portland, San Diego, Dayton, Boston, Cleveland, Providence,
Wichita, Detroit, Oakland, and Jersey City. These data contain
information that reached disposition in a cross-section of urban
general-jurisdiction trial courts during 1979, 1983, 1984, and 1985.
The 1979 data files contain the baseline data for this survey. In
selecting courts for inclusion in the study, a mix of urban courts
from different geographic regions, all with at least ten judges, was
sought. The intent was to include at least a few courts that met the
following criteria: (1) courts that had been the subject of a prior
empirical study of case processing times, (2) courts that had
initiated a significant delay reduction or delay prevention effort
during the 1977-1983 period, and (3) courts located in states in which
a significant state-wide delay reduction effort had been initiated
during the 1977-1983 period.
After the court selection, presiding judges or
trial court administrators were contacted to arrange initial site
visits. These visits served three purposes: (1) to help project staff
members obtain an overview of civil and criminal case processing in
the court through interviews with key judges and administrators, (2)
to collect documentary information about the court, such as
organizational charts, management information reports, local court
rules, annual reports, etc., and (3) to study the court's
record-keeping system. These systems provided a basis for developing a
data collection framework.
A general sample of approximately 500 criminal cases and
500 civil cases was selected for each disposition year--1979, 1983,
1984, and 1985. The approach to select the desired sample size of 500
was first to determine (or estimate) the number of dispositions in the
year for which the sample was drawn. The determined (or the estimated)
number was then divided by the desired sample size (500) to obtain the
sampling interval. Using the random number as a starting point, every
nth (where n is the sampling interval) case on the list was picked up
for inclusion in the sample.
Civil and criminal trial cases in urban courts of the
civil or criminal case
The criminal case survey instrument contains 22
basic question statements. Out of 22 basic data elements that are
present in the data, eight are dates that include date of arrest, date
trial started, date of disposition, and date of sentencing. Other
elements include total number of defendants, most serious charge in
indictment, number of counts or charges against this defendant, type
of disposition, most serious charge at conviction, and sentence
imposed. The civil case survey instrument contains 17 basic question
statements. Out of 17 elements in the data six are dates which include
date of complaint, first schedule trial date, date trial started, and
date of disposition. Other elements include nature of case, number of
plaintiffs, number of defendants, and manner of disposition.
Supplemental data elements were added in particular sites.