Justice Efficiencies and
Access to the Justice System

3. Culture: Effective case management creates a criminal justice system culture of responsibility, awareness, and appropriate collaboration.

The third major guiding principle for case management is the cultivation of a case management culture. Sloppy case management is no more acceptable than sloppy case presentation.

The expectations and standards called for above will only be effective to the extent they are followed. Obviously this requires enforcement. We are aware of a study of Scottish Courts that indicates that the degree of judicial tolerance for adjournments is a key variable in effective case management. There are more interests at stake than the Crown and defence but judges sometimes feel they have little choice but to grant an adjournment if Crown and defence agree on the need. This may be in the interests of Bench and Bar collegiality or in the larger interests of justice – regardless of the reason counsel aren’t prepared, it would be an injustice to proceed. But put simply, there are many reasons why counsel may want an adjournment and judges have the means to signal their displeasure at some of them even while granting the adjournment. Counsel should be put to the test by the court so that, even if an adjournment may be necessary, counsel will have the benefit of the court’s views to guide future case preparation.

Given our views on the tight relationship between case management and case flow management, we recognize that enforcement of expectations is most effective when each case can be understood in the context of all the cases. Under principle 5 we discuss information needs.

That said, a case management culture is best created collaboratively. But once, the decision has been taken to create one, jurisdictions should consider a “case management blitz” to create momentum, signal commitment and to quickly raise management standards across the system. Professional development programs for the Bench and Bar can be coordinated to concentrate on case management for a period of one or two years in order to validate the concept, support its implementation, equip each player with the necessary knowledge, explain the rules, and keep lawyers current on substantive issues affecting decision-making at each stage of a case, such as sentencing.

A case management culture demands case management data and information. As has been said, “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.” While the quality of justice defies measurement its quantity doesn’t. The justice system should demand the same evidentiary rigour about its case processing as it does about its cases. Some judges and lawyers are apprehensive about data collection – perhaps fearing somehow that it will detract from the quality of justice done in each case. We do not think this stands logically beside demands for access, efficiency and effectiveness.

Implementation Examples

  1. Research and data analysis about the justice system should be within the system, to enhance understanding of issues of common interest.
  2. Professional development should encourage a sense of shared responsibility for the justice system, and a vision of justice as a “system of systems”.
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