Client:A Mid-Sized California Court

The Challenge: The court's civil and family division struggled to avoid growing and shifting backlogs without adding staff and to develop staff performance standards. Documents were frequently missing from files or entered incorrectly in the case management system (CMS) and paperwork insufficiently reviewed before being sent to judicial officers, resulting in attorney complaints, continuances, inefficient use of judicial time and files being pulled when looking at the system should have been adequate. System entries were not standardized, limiting the use of the system for ad hoc management reporting. Personnel issues also impacted productivity. Employee turnover severely hampered keeping employees trained and work production high. The division's flat classification structure, with higher positions used almost exclusively as lead workers, rather than as specialists, provided little incentive for staff to assume more complex duties.

Our Approach:

Our approach included:

  • Interviews with judicial officers, managers, supervisors, lead workers and clerk office and related courtroom staff.
  • Observations of work processes and analysis of workload statistics.
  • Comparisons of the court's organizational structure and performance with that of other California courts with a similar ratio of civil filings to judicial positions and proportion of non-English speakers in the county.
  • Evaluation of the court's case management system's capabilities.

The Results

The court is implementing the following improvements as a result of our evaluation:

  • Designating a supervisor as the division training officer. We will work with the court to develop a training plans for probationary and regular employees.
  • Establishing teams with specific assignments and designated backups for each position to increase productivity, and ownership of tasks and ensure continual coverage of necessary functions.Engaging these employees in regular discussion of ways to improve efficiency and address backlogs.
  • Refocusing lead workers toward quality control and staff training and away from checking every piece of work.
  • Specifically assigning the responsibility for insuring files are complete before hearings. A new calendar worksheet will be produced by the CMS to simplify file review.
  • Creating deadlines for processing new civil cases and default judgments as a first step in creating performance standards.
  • Clarifying file tracking procedures and documenting use of file tracking.
  • Reallocating staff to specialized positions, particularly in the area of judgment processing, thereby avoiding the need for new staff.

Consultants: Kate Harrison and Phyllis Smith

If you'd like to know how you can achieve these types of results in your agency, please visit our website at www.kateharrisonconsulting.com or call Kate at (510) 593-9591 to discuss the challenges facing your agency.

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