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DISTRICT COURT CASEFLOW

CASEFLOW AND CALENDARING STUDY
JEFFERSON COUNTY, KENTUCKY
KENTUCKY (GREATER LOUISVILLE)
LOUISVILLE)

MAY 24, 2017 FINAL REPORT

Gordon Griller, Project Director
Hon. Patricia K. Costello, Project Consultant

Daniel J. Hall, Vice President
Court Consulting Services
National Center for State Courts
707 Seventeenth Street, Suite 2900
Denver, Colorado 80202-3429
(303) 293-3063
District Court, Jefferson County, Kentucky Caseflow and Calendaring Study

© 2017

National Center for State Courts

This study was prepared for the Kentucky Court of Justice (“Court of Justice”). It was
funded through a reengineering assistance grant from the State Justice Institute (“SJI”), a
federal program dedicated to improving the quality of justice in state courts and fostering
innovative, efficient solutions to common issues faced by all courts.
Consulting services were provided by the National Center for State Courts (“NCSC,”
“National Center,” or “Center”). The NCSC is an independent, private nonprofit corporation,
chartered in 1971, targeting the betterment of courts nationwide and around the world. The
study assesses the case processing operations in the District Court of Jefferson County
(Greater Louisville), Kentucky’s largest limited jurisdiction court. It identifies procedural and
performance issues that contribute to case processing delays, system inefficiencies, and local
legal, court, and governance problems that inhibit smooth operations. In response, the
authors recommend a series of methods and evidence-based techniques to address needless
delays, and offer a set of key practices with potential to improve the overall management of
the adjudication process. Many of the suggestions in this report are based on best practices in
trial courts throughout the country. In a sense, this analysis, along with the recommendations
and ideas, can serve as a strategic framework for discussion and an agenda for improvement.
The points of view and opinions expressed are those of the authors as agents of the
National Center, and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of SJI, the
Kentucky Judicial Branch, the Supreme Court of Kentucky, the Administrative Office of Courts in
Kentucky, or any of the justice system agencies in Jefferson County involved in case processing.

Online legal research provided by Thompson Reuters Westlaw.

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District Court, Jefferson County, Kentucky Caseflow and Calendaring Study

Acknowledgements
The National Center for State Courts wishes to thank the judges and staff of the District
and Circuit Courts in Jefferson County, as well as the Circuit Clerk of Court, Jefferson County
Attorney, Jefferson County Public Defender and Louisville Bar Association for their cooperation
and assistance in site visits, data collection, interviews, and observations of case operations and
proceedings. The National Center for State Courts is especially indebted to the Hon. John D.
Minton, Jr., Chief Justice of Kentucky and Ms. Laurie K. Dudgeon, Director, Administrative Office
of the Kentucky Courts for securing State Justice Institute technical assistance funds that
enabled this report; and Ms. Carla Kreitman, Chief Administrator, Jefferson County Trial Courts,
for her assistance in coordinating logistics and serving as the principal liaison with the National
Center project team.

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District Court, Jefferson County, Kentucky Caseflow and Calendaring Study

Caseflow and Calendaring Study
District Court, Jefferson County, Kentucky (Greater Louisville)
Table of Contents
Page

BACKGROUND, PURPOSE AND ORGANIZATION OF THE STUDY 1

SYNOPSIS: RECOMMENDATIONS AND STRATEGIES 4

1.0 OVERVIEW: PRESENT CASEFLOW AND CALENDARING SYSTEM 9
1.1 CRIMINAL CALENDARS 11
1.2 CIVIL CALENDARS 13

2.0 CASEFLOW PRINCIPLES VIS-À-VIS COURT PRACTICES 15
2.1 OPTION A: DEVELOP TRIAGED, DIFFERENTIATED CALENDARS 15
2.1.1 Findings, Observations and Commentary 15
2.1.2 Conclusions, Recommendations, Strategies 17
2.2 OPTION B: DEVELOP INDIVIDUAL CALENDARS 18
2.2.1 Findings, Observations and Commentary 18
2.2.2 Conclusions, Recommendations, Strategies 21
2.3 LIMIT AND MONITOR CONTINUANCES 22
2.3.1 Findings, Observations and Commentary 22
2.3.2 Conclusions, Recommendations, Strategies 23
2.4 ENSURE EVENTS ARE MEANINGFUL AND SCHEDULES REALISTIC 24
2.4.1 Findings, Observations and Commentary 24
2.4.2 Conclusions, Recommendations, Strategies 26
2.5 DEVELOP ACCURATE, TIMELY, USEFUL CASE MANGEMENT DATA 29
2.5.1 Findings, Observations and Commentary 29
2.5.2 Conclusions, Recommendations, Strategies 30
2.6 ADDRESS WORKLOAD AND WORKFORCE ISSUES 30
2.6.1 Findings, Observations and Commentary 30
2.6.2 Conclusions, Recommendations, Strategies 33

3.0 GOVERNANCE; LEADERSHIP PRINCIPLES VIS-À-VIS COURT PRACTICES 37
3.1 IMPROVE BENCH POLICY-MAKING 37
3.1.1 Findings, Observations and Commentary 38
3.1.2 Conclusions, Recommendations, Strategies 38
3.2 STRENGTHEN CHIEF JUDGE ROLE AND RESPONSIBILITY 39
3.2.1 Findings, Observations and Commentary 39
3.2.2 Conclusions, Recommendations, Strategies 39
3.3 ADOPT CASE PROCESSING TIME STANDARDS 40
3.3.1 Findings, Observations and Commentary 40
3.3.2 Conclusions, Recommendations, Strategies 41

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3.4 COORDINATE CALENDARS WITH THE CIRCUIT COURT 41
3.4.1 Findings, Observations and Commentary 41
3.4.2 Conclusions, Recommendations, Strategies 42
3.5 IMPROVE JUSTICE SYSTEM COLLABORATION 42
3.5.1 Findings, Observations and Commentary 42
3.5.2 Conclusions, Recommendations, Strategies 43

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BACKGROUND, PURPOSE, AND ORGANIZATION OF THE STUDY

This study, conducted by the National Center for State Courts (“NCSC,” “Center,” or
“National Center”) at the request of the Kentucky Court of Justice and its Administrative Office
of the Courts (“AOC”), outlines a series of strategies and directions to improve the adjudicatory
processes and efficiencies in the movement of cases through the District Court of Jefferson
County (“the Court”). The report also references the pace of litigation and associated
scheduling problems impacting the major justice system entities working with the Court,
including the Circuit Court, Office of the County Attorney, Office of the Public Defender, and the
Clerk of Circuit Court.
Among the questions addressed are…
• What are the key delay points in the Court’s ability to dispose of cases in an efficient
and timely manner?
• What changes, if any, need to be made in the practices of the Court to effect
improvements in scheduling cases?
• Is the Court complying with the case processing guidelines established by the
Kentucky Judicial Branch, and if not, why not?
• What data needs to be collected to (1) determine the impact of any new processes,
(2) identify areas needing further change, and (3) enable the Court to monitor and
report on its case processing performance in more informative and effective ways?
The study was funded through a State Justice Institute (“SJI”) grant.1 Many of the
recommendations presented are based on best practices, as identified by the Center, which are
operative in limited jurisdiction courts throughout the country and have proven to be successful
in streamlining and strengthening judicial and justice system procedures without compromising
due process protections for those litigating matters.
In many respects, courts that ask for an outside, objective assessment such as this
review should be commended. It is often hard for any group of court policymakers (i.e. bench
en banc, leadership judges, court executives) to detach themselves from the day-to-day
urgencies and stresses of the justice system, step back, and reflect on overall issues, problems,
and future directions. The engagement of the Center, on the other hand, offers an impartial
perspective from seasoned consultants in judicial administration and court management.

1
The State Justice Institute is a federal program funding technical assistance to state courts to improve the quality
of justice and foster innovative solutions to common issues faced by all courts. The grant, in the amount of
$49,613.66 supported the work of the National Center. No State of Kentucky funds were used to pay for this
study.

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District Court, Jefferson County, Kentucky Caseflow and Calendaring Study

At the request of the National Center consultants, Clerk of Court staff provided a
printout of 200 randomly selected District Court cases closed over the past year. NCSC
consultants then reviewed and analyzed special spreadsheet information produced by the
KyCourts Case Management System (CMS) regarding elapsed times between filing and
disposition, continuance statistics, and other case processing data as possible.2
It is the NCSC’s contention it may be feasible later for court staff to specially design a
series of computer applications to routinely extract relevant caseflow management data. Of
benefit, would be to consistently track NCSC’s key CourTool performance measures by case
type. These include the time to disposition measured by the percentage of cases
disposed/resolved within NCSC model time frames,3 age of active pending caseload measured
from the number of days from filing until the time of measurement, and trial date certainty, the
number of times cases disposed by trial are scheduled for trial.4 It would also be helpful to
track continuances when they occur in the caseflow, who requests them and for what reasons,
how long they are granted, and the judicial officer who authorized the continuance. The ability
to routinely present accurate and timely case status reports in a manner judges, court
managers, and policymakers can effectively use to reduce needless delay is an essential feature
of continuous caseflow improvement efforts.
The NCSC project team, beginning in October 2016, reviewed studies, available
statistics, and program data provided by the Court and AOC, and traveled to Louisville,
Kentucky, to meet and interview numerous judges, court staff, and justice system agency
representatives, as well as observe Court proceedings from November 30 through December 2,
2016.
The study was conducted independently. No person pressured, influenced, or
otherwise compromised the objective nature of this review. All those interviewed and
contacted provided requested data and information openly and in a timely manner. At all

2
The KyCourts Case Management System (CMS) records basic case processing results and actions. It is used by all
courts throughout the State. In doing so, it provides detailed, accurate case recordkeeping support. The system
appears both reliable and stable. Challenges do exist, however, in its ability to segregate and generate specific
caseflow and calendar performance data to assist judges and court managers in day-to-day monitoring of
caseloads and its capacity to routinely report information on such measures as active pending caseload, trial date
certainty, continuances, or elapse times between major processing events by case type, specific court, and
individual judge. KyCourts can produce “one-off” historical statistical reports where system data elements exist.
3
Kentucky does not have case processing time standards. Model time standards for limited jurisdiction courts
endorsed by the National Center, American Bar Association, National Association for Court Management,
Conference of Chief Justices and Conference of State Court Administrators, call for the following case disposition
times… Misdemeanor Cases: 75% within 30 days; 90% within 60 days; 98% within 180 days. Traffic & Local
Ordinance Violations: 75% within 30 days; 90% within 60 days; and 98% within 90 days. Juvenile Delinquency /
Status Offenses (out of custody): 90% within 3 months; 98% within 6 months; 100% within 12 months.
Guardianship / Conservatorship: 98% within 90 days. Civil Commitment: 98% within 15 days.
4
More detailed information about CourTools can be found at www.courtools.org

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times, Center consultants were free to determine whom to interview, what questions to ask,
how to collect needed data and information, which justice agencies and functions to visit, and
how to assemble this report.
The NCSC project director, Gordon Griller, is a Principal Court Management Consultant
at the Center. He is a ten-year, full-time employee of the Center’s Court Consulting Services,
and has over 40 years of experience in leading, managing, and analyzing state trial courts and
their affiliated agencies throughout the nation. Prior to joining the Center, he managed state
courts in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota, and Phoenix, Arizona. Mr. Griller was assisted by
the Hon. Patricia K. Costello, (ret.), former Assignment Judge, Superior Court of New Jersey in
Essex Vicinage (Greater Newark). She is a part-time special consultant and advisor to the
Center on caseflow management and court leadership issues. Judge Costello most recently
served eleven years as the top administrative judge in Essex Vicinage (pop. 783,000) and
oversaw all general and limited jurisdiction courts in that jurisdiction. Mr. Griller and Judge
Costello have worked together on numerous caseflow and calendaring studies.
The report is divided into three major sections. The first section summarily reviews the
current case processing patterns in the District Court. The Court is the largest trial court in the
State by number of judges and case volume. The second section – Caseflow Principles vis-à-vis
Court Practices - identifies best practices in case processing efficiency and compares them to
practices evident in the Court. The NCSC’s findings, observations, and commentary under this
section pinpoint delays in the pace of litigation as well as problems and inefficiencies
experienced by various justice system agencies due to current scheduling and docketing
patterns. Conclusions, recommendations, and strategies are then outlined that Court and
justice system leaders are encouraged to consider in addressing and correcting the problems
identified that cause procedural inefficiency, redundant court appearances, and repetitive
clerical work concerning the same case. The third section discusses major governance and
leadership issues that NCSC consultants conclude are pivotal to improving calendaring and
caseflow.
Admittedly, the subjects outlined here certainly may not be the only caseflow matters
that should or could be improved. They do represent, however, the most obvious ones to the
National Center consultants. Also, the NCSC project team feels they are the most valuable and
practicable in advancing both immediate and sustained case processing improvements and a
better functioning Court.
The following pages summarize the NCSC’s recommendations and strategies for each
major topic found under the issues identification and recommended solutions sections of the
report. The page numbers where particular issues, findings, and recommendations can be
found are also listed.

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SYNOPSIS: RECOMMENDATIONS AND STRATEGIES

Option A: Develop Triaged, Differentiated Calendars
Page 15

1. The District Court Chief Judge and one or two District Court judges selected by
the Court, with advice and counsel of Kentucky Judicial Branch leaders
including the Chief Judge and Administrator of the District Court, the
Administrator of the Kentucky AOC, and any additional persons designated by
the Chief Justice of Kentucky, should review as a Calendar Work Group the
costs, benefits, logistics and timing regarding the creation of a triaged,
differentiated calendaring system for all District Court judicial assignments in
Jefferson County.
2. A report should be developed by the Work Group for presentation, discussion
and a vote by the District Court Judges as to the adoption and implementation,
in whole or part, of the Calendar Work Group recommendations

Option B: Develop Individual Calendars
Page 18

3. If the District Court concludes the Triage / Differentiated Calendar method is
not a desirable option to implement, the Chief Judge should appoint a District
Judges Committee to develop an Individual Calendar Plan.
4. A time table and written Caseflow Management Plan should be developed
giving details about the case processing techniques that will be employed in
the individual calendaring system. It serves as a concise blueprint of how the
individual calendaring system will operate. The process in preparing and
reviewing drafts of the plan can serve to identify problems, to think
through main tasks, pinpoint key responsibilities, and target dates for
implementing major parts of the plan. As with any development of a triage /
differentiated calendar plan, justice system stakeholders should be part of the
planning process.

Limit and Monitor Continuances
Page 22

5. Meaningful management data regarding continuances should be developed,
including where in the caseflow a continuance occurs, who requested it, why it
was requested, whether it was stipulated to or objected by opposing counsel,
who (judge) granted it, and how long a period it was granted. If the Court’s case
management system cannot be programmed to capture this information and
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produce regular reports, periodic sampling of closed cases should be
undertaken.

6. Current continuance policies, rules or administrative orders by the Court in
general and each judge should be assembled, reviewed, and amended as
necessary to ensure they apply to all Court proceedings, including but not
limited to all pretrial hearings or events.

7. Continuance data by judicial officer should be published periodically for
internal review by all judges of the Court and the Jefferson County Trial Courts
Administrator. Discussion, as appropriate, about continuance activity should
be an item for discussion at bench meetings.

8. The Chief Judge should counsel with any judicial officer granting inordinate
numbers of continuances or resets on his/her calendar.

Ensure Events are Meaningful and Schedules are Realistic
Page 24

9. A closer look at and analysis of the pretrial process by the Court should take
place in concert with the County Attorney and public and private defense
bars to assess the effectiveness of the current pretrial process. A joint
bench/prosecutor/defense task force initiated by the District Court Chief Judge
and staffed by the Trial Courts Administrator or Administrative Office of the
Courts would be an appropriate approach.

10. Court leaders should explore with the County Attorney and the defense bar as
appropriate the possibility of instituting a plea cut-off policy for District Court
criminal cases on an experimental basis and evaluate the results.

11. The Trial Courts Administrator, with the assistance of the Administrative Office
of the Kentucky Courts, the County Attorney, and local defense bar should
review District Court discovery turnaround times in Jefferson County for digital
(videos, body camera) and forensic evidence as well as the nature and timing
of discovery exchange between prosecution and defense. Where there are
verifiable, continuous systemwide problems or delays, remedies should be
sought and implemented.

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Develop Accurate, Timely, Useful Case Management Data
Page 29

12. At a minimum, all four CourTool case processing measures should be
produced on an ad hoc basis by KyCourts, as possible, for the District Court.
13. If special KyCourts’ generated reports for the District Court in Jefferson County
are not feasible, Court leaders should explore other options to produce
periodic performance data on CourTool measures, including sampling closed
case files with the assistance of the Clerk of Court.
14. A gap analysis should be undertaken to determine whether the data fields in
the KyCourts can be configured to produce meaningful CourTool management
reports by case category regarding clearance rates, time to disposition, age of
active pending caseload, and trial date certainty.

Address Workload and Workforce Issues
Page 30

15. If the District Court opts to develop either a triage / differentiated or individual
calendar system, it likely will be necessary to review, analyze and detail non-
judicial staffing needs. Current staff housed in and assigned by the Clerk of
Court are principally dedicated to courtroom recordkeeping duties. The small
number of non-judicial District Court staff are largely focused on logistical and
ancillary clerical duties. It may be possible to redefine existing jobs, even those
in the Clerk’s Office, to take on new roles in case management. To that end, it
is important to engage all core justice system stakeholders (i.e. Clerk of Court,
AOC, and Jefferson County) in assessing the needs of a new calendar system as
well as developing the resources to provide case management support.
16. Trial commissioners should be utilized seven days a week for evening/night
emergent on-call duties.
17. Suburban evening traffic court should be eliminated.
18. Jury trials in uncontested guardianship cases should be eliminated by the State
Legislature. Currently, jury trials are required.

Improve Bench Policy-
Policy-Making
Page 37

19. The Board of Judges meeting en-banc should commit to a step-by-step,
common-sense approach to collective decision-making, namely defining the
issue (problem) clearly, establishing the objective, looking at the pertinent
information, generating alternatives, seeking additional information,
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evaluating the options/alternatives, projecting the consequences for the Court
and justice stakeholders, choosing a direction (vote), monitoring the results,
and adjusting directions (subsequent votes) to optimize benefits as necessary.
20. District Court Local Rules should be updated.
21. A binding vacation, sick, and leave policy applicable to all judges should be
developed.

Strengthen Chief Judge Role and Responsibility
Page 39

22. An administrative order should be issued under the authority of the Supreme
Court of Kentucky empowering the Chief Judge of the District Court in Jefferson
County to supervise, coordinate and administer an efficient, balanced case
processing system for all judicial calendars and dockets within the Court and to
ensure effective caseflow management and timely disposition of all cases.

23. Consistent with Recommendation 20, the Chief Judge of District Court in
Jefferson County should be authorized to coordinate the schedules of the judges
to ensure enough judicial officers will always be available to carry out the
necessary judicial duties of the Court for every business day. This includes
vacations, community outreach, continuing education, and similar matters.

24. It should be the responsibility of the Chief Judge to work with the Board of
Judges and Trial Courts Administrator to define and develop the operational
reports needed by judges and staff to monitor every case to ensure it is
progressing through the adjudicatory process in accordance with acceptable
standards governing timeliness.

Adopt Case Processing Time Standards
Page 40

25. Case processing time standards should be introduced and made a goal of the
District Court in Jefferson County

Coordinate Calendars with the Circuit Court
Page 41

26. A special task force should be created by the Circuit and District Court Chief
Judges to creatively explore ways to improve the logistics and scheduling of
criminal cases in both courts to reduce calendar downtime. High-tech / high-

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touch digital solutions ought to be researched in addition to scheduling
improvements.

Improve Justice System Collaboration
Page 42

27. Utilize the Planning and Coordinating Council as a forum to assist, monitor and
promote caseflow reform and delay reduction efforts.

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1.0 OVERVIEW: PRESENT CASEFLOW AND CALENDARING SYSTEM
The District Court in Jefferson County (Greater Louisville) is a large urban limited
jurisdiction court comprised of 17 judges when fully staffed. It is Kentucky’s biggest court by
number of judges, case volume (2 ½ times larger than the second largest District Court in
Fayette County - Lexington, KY), and population served (763,623 residents, circa CY 2015).
District Courts handle juvenile matters, city and county ordinances, misdemeanors, violations,
traffic offenses, probate of wills, arraignments, felony probable cause hearings, small claims
involving $2,500 or less, civil cases involving $5,000 or less, voluntary and involuntary mental
commitments, cases relating to domestic violence and abuse, guardianships (disabilities),
voluntary and involuntary drug and alcohol commitments (Casey’s Law), and interpersonal
protection orders (IPO’s). District judges are popularly elected and serve four-year terms.
The Kentucky AOC Research and Statistics Unit provides annual (calendar year)
composite statistics for District Courts by County and Judicial District. In 2016, case clearance
rates in Jefferson County (the number of closed cases: 114,830; compared to the number of
new filings: 115,257) measured 99.9 percent. The Court has consistently exhibited that rate or
higher over the past eight years, a laudable record. The vast majority of district courts in the
remaining 119 counties of the State showed similar levels. The overall statewide case clearance
rate for all district courts was 99.6 percent in 2016, meaning case backlog is not generally a
problem in Kentucky’s District Courts.
Interestingly, however, the number of traffic cases filed and closed in Jefferson County
District Court has consistently dropped over the last few years (CY 2014; 2015; 2016) compared
to previous years. In 2014, 146,618 cases were filed and 145,695 closed; in 2015, 127,098 were
filed and 129,968 were closed. Admittedly, nationwide criminal and civil filings in both general
and limited jurisdiction courts have been declining for a decade according to the National
Center’s Court Statistics Project.5 Reasons why traffic filings have fallen are speculative;
including such explanations as a greater focus by police on crime reduction versus
apprehension, improved driver behavior sparked by better traffic safety programs, and
cutbacks in overtime pay for officers who must appear in court. Researchers are not sure what
the causes of decrease may be, or whether filings will stabilize or rise in the near future.
The KyCourts Case Management System (CMS) does provide District Court statistics by
case category (i.e. civil, disability & health, domestic violence, felony, juvenile, misdemeanor,
probate, small claims and traffic) pertaining to the average time in months between filing and
closure dates. Overall, average processing times in Jefferson County appear good although a
little longer in traffic, misdemeanor, and civil matters than the statewide averages in CY 2016.
Average processing times, however, are not as insightful or discerning as are time period

5
See www.courtstatistics.org

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percentages recommended by the National Center for a couple of reasons. First, average
(mean) data is a measure of central tendency and not as helpful in understanding or analyzing
where cases resolve along a case processing continuum. Secondly, given the fact that limited
jurisdiction case filings nationally, and in Kentucky, have decreased over the past decade, the
reduction in volume should improve elapse times over the long-run unless resources (judges,
prosecutors, defense lawyers, court staff), case complexities, case law, or statutory changes
have slowed case processing times.
The State’s CMS does a better job than most state courts in routinely tracking DUI and
drug case dispositions by court and type of resolution. In a cursory review of common
resolutions in Jefferson County vis-à-vis the rest of the State for First Offense DUI cases by
charges and drug cases by defendants, the data shows some differences in the way matters are
resolved for CY 2016. The reasons for the differences may not only be the result of court
decisions but also may have been caused by law enforcement and prosecution policies and
procedures. Nevertheless, the contrasts are worthy to note.
CY 2016 Kentucky District Court Comparison by Percentage of Total Dispositions in DUI and Drug Cases
Disposition First Offense DUI cases (charges) Drug Cases (defendants)
Jefferson County Statewide Jefferson County Statewide
Guilty Plea 47% 60% 23% 31%
Amended Down 17% 18% 12% 4%
Dismissed 10% 6% 40% 25%

The current District Court calendaring method is best described as a hybrid system.
Hybrid, a term frequently used in judicial and court management circles, means a blend of an
individual calendar system where cases are randomly assigned at filing to a single judge who
thereafter is responsible for all court hearings and case progress, and a master calendar system
where judges are assigned to preside over court events (e.g. arraignments, bail reviews,
preliminary hearings) rather than having responsibility for all events in the cases assigned to
them.
Jefferson County District Court judges are currently split into two groups; ten judges are
assigned to handle criminal cases and seven judges oversee civil dockets. The criminal calendar
consists of handling felony arraignments, probable cause hearings, misdemeanors, traffic, DUI
(driving under the influence) and domestic violence cases. All seventeen judges handle bail
reviews, search warrant applications, interpersonal protection orders (IPOs), and emergency
protection orders (EPOs). There are also ancillary afternoon calendars for a variety of problem-
solving courts, including Drug Court, Mental Health Court, Veterans’ Treatment Court, and Teen
Court. The civil docket includes probate, guardianships (also referred to as disability),
voluntary/involuntary civil commitments, juvenile cases (primarily delinquencies such as

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robbery, auto theft, gang violence, etc.) not within the Family Court’s one judge/one family
jurisdiction, juvenile traffic, small claims, and landlord tenant.6
At present, judges with seniority are permitted to select the assignment of their choice.
Judges rotate assignments every year beginning their assignments on January 1. Consideration
is given, however, to judges with less seniority to preside over case types they have not dealt
with previously. In some instances, judges have spent their entire careers on criminal or traffic.
Not many judges desire to sit in juvenile, probate or the civil assignments.

1.1 CRIMINAL CALENDARS
Criminal calendars operate five days per week. For back-up purposes, two judge teams
have been created called “pods.” Pod mates generally have adjacent courtrooms to permit
easier calendar coverage should a pod mate be absent. Generally, every morning court begins
at 9:00 AM. Approximately 50-60 defendants with 100 or more charges are set on the
calendar, most represented by the public defender. Prosecutors, defense attorneys and pro se
litigants meet in attorney conference rooms near the criminal courtrooms to review cases and
discuss plea agreements. Cases with self-represented litigants are scheduled at 1:00 PM.
Two afternoons a week are set aside for trials; no other cases are normally set on trial
afternoons. DUI trials, commercial driver’s license, and moving violations are commonly set on
these afternoon calendars. No routine KyCourts CMS reports are available outlining the
number of trials set or conducted, although interviewees estimated that the number was small;
most are bench trials.7 The afternoon calendars are light in comparison to the morning dockets
and are generally over around 3:30 PM.
Ancillary dockets (i.e. problem-solving courts) are handled separately; each is scheduled
at a specific time and date each week. These include Drug Court, Mental Health Court,
Veterans’ Treatment Court, and Teen Court. A series of criminal dockets are heard in the
afternoons involving bad check matters, ecology cases (housing and dog/cat ordinances),
citations, out of custody arraignments, non-support cases, and show cause hearings.
Criminal cases are assigned to a courtroom, not a judge. Consequently, there may be
numerous judges that interact with a case during its life.
Public defenders handle cases both in Circuit and District Courts. Every morning, public
defenders report first to Circuit Court. Once their appearances in Circuit Court have been

6
Family Court judges (a division of the Circuit Court) have jurisdiction in domestic and juvenile cases in 71 of the
120 Kentucky counties that have a Family Court. In the other 49 counties, circuit and district court judges handle
domestic and juvenile cases.
7
Most jury trials are DUI cases; one judge said she tried 15 DUI juries over two years. Bench trials can be first
offense DUI, traffic (e.g. speeding, reckless, etc.) of CDLs (commercial driver’s license violations involving truckers).

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concluded, they move to the District Court. (The Circuit Court is in a separate, adjacent
courthouse; the Judicial Center. The District Court is in the Hall of Justice). Among the five two-
judge pods, there are 6-7 prosecutors assigned. Prosecutors are specialized in various units by
case type (e.g. DUI, criminal misdemeanor, domestic violence, traffic, etc.). They rotate from
one pod to another every six months. Public defenders are assigned to pods as well. They
operate with a vertical representation approach, working with clients who are assigned a public
defender from the start of litigation until the case is disposed. Given this representation
pattern, situations arise where a defendant (and defense attorney) may have multiple charges
with different prosecutors and may appear in both District and Circuit Courts with the same
defense lawyer.
There is no efficient system to group and calendar together multiple cases (charges) for
a defendant, much less on the same day. Defendants can resolve their Circuit Court case(s),
and be sent to prison without disposing of their District Court case(s) leading to inefficiency,
aging calendars, and possible additional costs to correctional departments should these
defendants have to be transported back to court to adjudicate any remaining charges dubbed
“dangling cases.”
When District Court judges take the bench at 9:00 AM, frequently they are unable to
move the bulk of their calendars until the public defenders “swarm back” to the Hall of Justice.
The actual start time for District Court morning criminal/traffic calendars has been described as
occurring any time from 10:30 AM to 11:30 AM.8 Court recesses between 12Noon and 12:15
PM and reconvenes at 1:00 PM. This adjournment time is tightly adhered to owing to a
resolution of a union grievance/lawsuit by court clerks regarding work hours and overtime pay.
Many judges will “pass” (postpone/continue) cases that cannot be reached by Noon; a few will
carry them over to the 1:00 PM docket. One judge routinely sends all prisoners back to the jail
if their case has not been reached by 11:45 AM. There is no consistent court-wide policy on
how adjournments will be handled.
Criminal cases have numerous points of entry, meaning cases can be assigned from a
variety of sources. These include the Clerk’s Office, attorney requests, transferred cases (from
other judges and from night to day court), police officers (citations to a specific date), 10/20
dates, fugitives, pretrial ROR/AR arraignment dates, monitored conditional release (MCR)
violations, court monitoring center (CMC) violations, and corrections cases. When a judge has a
planned absence, cases are still scheduled for that day by some of these justice system
stakeholders. There is no cohesive way to notice all parties involved that a judge will not be
available on a given day. All criminal calendars need to be covered every day. A pod mate or

8
Some, but not all, judges hear private defense attorney and pro se cases as possible, do paperwork, review
motions, or handle other court activities from 9:00 AM until the bulk of defense attorneys return from Circuit
Court. Judges generally don’t leave the bench during the morning calendar.

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another judge (e.g. probate judge or another civil judge) can be called upon in the case of an
unplanned or unexpected absence, or for that matter, even a planned absence if the pod mate
is unable to cover for the missing judge. Communication and coordination between judges,
Court Administration, and the Clerk’s Office about judges’ absences, combining of dockets,
movement of courtrooms and cases can lag, which further exacerbates the situation. While
Court Administration sends notices as broadly and as timely as possible, if advised of changes,
there exist multiple challenges to communication and coordination between the stakeholders.
Judges hear many competency hearings (also referred to as “504 motions”). In the past,
the Public Defender would stipulate to the contents of a competency report. Today, they will
not and a hearing must be held on each filing.
Judges with combined calendars who cover for an absent judge tend to “pass” (i.e.
continue or postpone) more cases and issue more bench warrants on the calendar belonging to
that judge. Combined calendars result in huge dockets. Signage is not always updated to reflect
a change in where a calendar is being heard causing litigants to be misdirected that may result
in the issuance of a bench warrant even though they were at the Hall of Justice. Both Clerk of
Court officials and public defenders complained of the number of warrants incorrectly issued
due to frequent coverage confusion. There appears to be enough faultfinding to go around;
clerks criticize judges for not taking the opportunity at court appearances to confirm addresses,
and lawyers blame clerks for not updating defendant addresses in the case management
system.9
Because of delays in moving cases, many defendants have multiple open charges.10
There is no organized system to place all charges involving a defendant on the same calendar
and same date. The result is numerous adjournments and unproductive appearances. There is
no uniform or best practice for granting continuances or adjournments. Judges generally grant
them if both prosecution and defense stipulate to the time extension.

1.2 CIVIL CALENDARS
The civil calendars also run five days per week. A typical breakdown for Civil Division I
courts would be Monday and Wednesday evictions and trials. Tuesday is Arraignment Court.
Thursday is small claims and trials, and Friday is motion day. A typical breakdown for Civil
Division II courts would be Tuesday, Thursday and Friday evictions and trials. Wednesday is
Arraignment Court and small claims, and Friday is motion day. Civil courts also handle Juvenile
Court, Probate Court, mental inquest warrants (MIW), guardianships (disabilities), IPOs and

9
Incorrectly issued warrants may appear on a defendant’s record affecting future bail setting decisions.
10
During NCSC’s visit to the District Court, one defendant had 17 open charges, all from different incidences and
different dates.

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Casey’s Law hearings, cover juvenile and probate matters, and mental inquest warrants (MIW).
Reportedly, [except for juvenile] bench time in Civil Division I and Civil Division II may last about
an hour; although there is substantial paperwork to be reviewed and signed. Motion calendars
last only a few hours at most.
It was reported that the juvenile docket is difficult to cover, primarily because it
operates five days a week with both morning and afternoon calendars and has no logical
“partner” court or pod mate to routinely cover for judicial absences. Because of the volume,
and unique case types and processes, the juvenile judge cannot combine dockets or easily
cancel matters set. Given this situation, it would be wise for Court leaders to review this
assignment and make adjustments as necessary.
When a person with guardianship issues turns 18 years old, and the parents or guardian
desires to continue to manage the affairs of the ward, the statute requires a jury trial. Most of
these matters are uncontested. The judge hearing guardianship cases regularly hears three
trials a day, four days a week (Monday through Thursday). There may also be trials set on
Fridays. Many of these trials last less than an hour and one-half on average. As necessary, civil
courts hear emergency guardianship petitions as they are filed.
Civil orders sit in large baskets, purportedly for weeks, waiting for judges to find time at
the courthouse to address them, or take them home and review them for signature. One judge
admitted to having 20 baskets of orders sitting on shelves waiting to be signed with no schedule
or timeline in place to complete them. Staff believes civil judges perform 25 percent of their
work at the courthouse and 75 percent at home.

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2.0 CASEFLOW PRINCIPLES VIS-À-VIS COURT PRACTICES
Although KyCourts performance statistics for the District Court in Jefferson County show
annual case clearance rates at 95-100+ percent over the recent past, and average elapse times
to dispose of cases equal to or less than many smaller, less voluminous district courts in the
State, the National Center contends there are a series of caseflow and calendaring inefficiencies
inherent in the operation of the Court that cause unnecessary delays and should be addressed.
In doing so, the work of judges and Court staff can be more streamlined and less redundant,
appearances by lawyers and litigants in Court will be more productive and less excessive, and
trust and confidence on the part of the general public in the Court may well be enhanced.
Proven, evidence-based caseflow management techniques have been developed over
40+ years of research and testing in hundreds of trial courts by numerous court improvement
organizations and courts themselves. When consistently applied, these principles, and the
practices associated with them, help assure that needless delays are avoided and scheduling
efficiencies maximized. Each principle is concerned with a critical step in the flow of cases,
whether criminal, traffic or civil. Determining the extent to which these principles are followed
consistently provides insights into the causes of concern in the Court’s existing practices and
points toward possible solutions.

2.1 OPTION A: DEVELOP TRIAGED, DIFFERENTIATED CALENDARS
Best Practice: The start of each case should trigger an effort by the court to resolve the
case as early in the process as reasonable and to reduce the time and costs for the
parties and the court without sacrificing the rights or interests of the litigants. This
includes the effective use of diversion programs, placing cases on pathways, tracks or
calendars based on their complexity and likely time to resolution, ensuring the
responsible use of pretrial and settlement conferences as needed, and remaking Court
rules, procedures and business practices that trigger the closer and more effective review
of cases at the very beginning of the adjudication process.
2.1.1 Findings, Observations and Commentary
Every scheduled event should be viewed as an opportunity to dispose of a case
appearing before the Court. Given the volume of criminal and traffic cases handled in Jefferson
County, and the large size of some civil dockets (e.g. juvenile), it may seem daunting to expect
that more cases can be resolved early in the caseflow.
Of particular concern by the NCSC project team in observing the “Regular
Criminal/Traffic Dockets” set at 9:00 AM was the number of lawyers and litigants who were
unprepared for this event. Whether this is caused by overwhelmed and confused litigants; by
attorneys who had too many cases and weren’t familiar with their assigned or reassigned cases,

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lacked adequate discovery, or struggled with poor work processes or habits; couldn’t be
determined. While NCSC understands most self-represented litigants are unsure of the court
processes and what is expected of them, attorneys should be prepared for early court events.
There may be a variety of other factors, too, at play causing cases to languish as they
enter the formal adjudication process. As an example, NCSC consultants were told by one judge
that the State forensic lab is backed-up requiring 6-8 months for results to be received by the
Court. State executive branch officials have reportedly advised the Judicial Branch it will
resolve the problem by mid-2017. Video, apparently, is not generally produced until a defense
attorney formally requests it (and the defense may not request it right away); and greater
demands for body camera videos are concluded by some judges to slow the discovery process.
Historically, forensic results were received in 60 days. The U.S. Department of Justice
National Forensic Laboratory Resource Center suggests a responsible average turnaround time
on drug and chemical toxicology reports is 30-days. There are no national standards for
forensic testing turnaround times, and states show great variations in lab to court forensic
results. Also, it is interesting to note that the DOJ has reported that 8 out of 10 state forensic
labs do not analyze all drug or chemical cases submitted to them. The most common reasons
cited for not doing so are that the case was dismissed or did not have the defendant linked to
the case (66%), the defendant entered a guilty plea or plea agreement without submission of
forensic evidence (62%) or the case was adjudicated without forensic evidence (61%).
Police reports, witness statements, citations, and law enforcement investigative reports
appear to be timely. There was an indication from interviews, however, that discovery
exchange can be delayed since it was claimed there is no “open file policy” by the County
Attorney’s Office. Open, automatic, and early discovery exchange is vital to quicker case
resolutions.11 Timely rulings on suppression motions by judges are key elements, too, in
speeding early case resolutions as well. There was an inference by several judges that prompt
rulings on motions may be problematic for some judicial officers.
Another factor that greatly conditions the pace of litigation is more amorphous; it is
what has come to be called the “local legal culture” among lawyers and judges. It undoubtedly
is present in the Jefferson County justice system. Local legal culture, a term coined through in-
depth analysis of trial court delay, concludes that the speed of disposition for both civil and
criminal cases is not singularly conditioned by court structure, resources, procedures, workload,

11
ABA criminal discovery principles include: (1) Open file discovery – The defense should have access to all
unprivileged information known to the prosecution, law enforcement, or forensic testing labs working with the
prosecution at the very early stages of the case; (2) Automatic disclosure – Police reports, witness statements,
results of physical and mental exams, and evidence related to any aggravating or mitigating factors that could
affect a plea or sentence should be revealed at a point prior to those events that allows the defense to responsibly
discuss those elements with the defendant; and (3) Early exchange of evidence – This is an underlining tenet in
effective caseflow management in all high performing courts.

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or trial rate. Rather, it is largely determined by the established expectations, norms, practices
and informal rules of behavior on the part of judges and lawyers practicing in a particular court.
In other words, court systems become accustomed to a given pace of litigation. In courts
where the practitioners expect cases to be resolved in a timely manner, they are resolved
faster. Expectations for timeliness, research substantiates, are associated with the degree of
timeliness.12
2.1.2 Conclusions, Recommendations and Strategies
With so many components that impact the early assessment of cases, it may appear
extremely difficult to remake the way calendars are structured to cause more cases to resolve
sooner in the adjudication process. Many limited jurisdiction courts, however, have done so by
assessing, grouping and calendaring high-volume dockets not only by case type (as the Court
does now), but additionally by case complexity and the estimated amount of judicial or Court
attention a case requires to prompt a timely and early resolution.
Ideally, this early analysis and triage approach can be instituted by differentiating
calendars on a Courtwide basis; essentially creating a more sophisticated and reasoned
approach to dividing the work among all judges of the Court and rotating every judge through
the calendars as necessary. As an example, rather than allocating Criminal/Traffic/Pro Se
Calendars by defendants’ surnames as is done now, calendars could be divided on the basis of
the amount of attention a case may need from the lawyers and Court and the expected pace at
which it can reasonably be expected to proceed to resolution. Another approach using the
same triage method could be to set-up each individual criminal docket as it exists now by
allocating cases to different internal processing tracks through uniform rules, procedures and
business practices depending on their complexity and estimated time to resolution. Both
approaches would require the Court to determine how the assessment, triage, and tacks would
be defined; when, how and who would screen and classify the cases; what would be the degree
of attorney input and how would it be obtained; how to notify the parties of the track
assignment; necessary management functions for monitoring case progress; as well as the role
and use of the automated information system.
Generally, whether a triage system is developed Courtwide for common case types or
individually by each judge handling the same types of cases, the most widespread pattern in
use is a three-track model. As an example for the criminal/traffic docket, many low-level
criminal cases where there are limited fact patterns, few charges, minimal or no discovery, few
witnesses (perhaps only a police officer) and low-level penalties would fall into a streamlined or
expedited track. A standard track would involve intermediate or mid-level criminal cases having
more severe charges, one to two motions, modest discovery issues, multiple witnesses, and

12
Church, Thomas. “The Old and New Conventional Wisdom about Court Delay,” 7 Justice System Journal 3, 1982.

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more severe penalties. Complex track cases would entail a small amount of criminal litigation
requiring more hands-on judicial involvement due to a series of complicated issues such as
expert witnesses, multiple procedural/substantive motions, intricate discovery issues, multiple
serious charges and serve penalties.
Admittedly, the development of a more sophisticated assessment and triage approach
to early case processing Courtwide or for all individual judge calendars in criminal and civil
would take time and likely additional staff. It is also doubtful the Court could implement such
widespread changes quickly.
1. The District Court Chief Judge and one or two District Court judges selected by
the Court, with advice and counsel of Kentucky Judicial Branch leaders
including the Chief Judge and Administrator of the Circuit Court, the
Administrator of the Kentucky AOC, and any additional persons designated by
the Chief Justice of Kentucky, should review as a Calendar Work Group the
costs, benefits, logistics and timing regarding the creation of a triaged,
differentiated calendaring system for all District Court judicial assignments in
Jefferson County.
2. A report should be developed by the Work Group for presentation, discussion
and a vote by the District Court Judges as to the adoption and implementation,
in whole or part, of the Calendar Work Group recommendations.

2.2 OPTION B: DEVELOP INDIVIDUAL CALENDARS
Best Practice: Trial court calendars and work assignments in multi-judge courts should
be as balanced and equalized as possible regarding the numbers and complexity of cases
assigned to each judge to ensure no judge unfairly receives a disproportionate amount
of work in comparison to his/her colleagues handling similar matters. Where judges
handle a unique or standalone calendar of cases, those judges should not be either so
over or under worked in comparison to their fellow judicial officers that it creates
troublesome morale and work disparity problems for the court. In high performing
courts, judges see themselves as part of the court as an institution, responsible for its
overall work and performance.

2.2.1 Findings, Observations and Commentary

The current way District Court calendars are structured does little to balance workloads
between morning and afternoon calendars. Criminal calendars are normally overburdened and
heavy in the morning and light in the afternoon. Civil calendars have sporadic downtimes
throughout the week as well. Often during these periods, civil judges are expected to cover for
their colleagues on criminal assignments even though a general policy exists that criminal judge
pod-mates will cover for each other. In many instances, Court Administration must scramble to
find judges to cover criminal calendars where pod mates are unavailable.
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Resultantly, there doesn’t seem to be a strong collective sense of responsibility on the
part of the judges for the Court as an institution, and therefore no genuine willingness –
without coaxing or prodding – to help each other manage the overall workload of the Court. As
with many courts, judges display a relatively high level of autonomy vis-à-vis the larger system
within which they exist. Although a rather hackneyed phrase, trial courts are often labeled as
organizations where there is a “war of the parts against the whole” or “everyone is in charge
and no one is charge.” Judge Kevin Burke, former chief judge in Hennepin County Minnesota
(Minneapolis) capture those sentiments in his writings on courts and leadership when he likens
a trial court to a collection of judges banded together by necessity in an office sharing
arrangement at a courthouse.
In 2011, the criminal dockets were reorganized (civil dockets never went through a
reorganization). The AM and PM calendars were kept in place, and the combined dockets (the
process of one judge stepping into two calendars to cover) became common. This system does
not work well. It leads to an extremely high level of continuances (“passes”), significant down
time for judges, the appearance of a part-time calendar, and probably many erroneously issued
unnecessary bench warrants.
The opinion of many watching the Court is that its calendar assignment system is
chaotic; some judges are overburdened, others have more free time and may leave early. Of
particular concern were critical comments about the perceived work ethic of District Court
judges. NCSC consultants often heard from different sources that many judges leave the
courthouse by 2:30 or 3:00 PM most days. Judges themselves were candid in stating that they
do exit the courthouse when their calendars are finished since they’re able to perform
paperwork functions at home or they have other after-hours duties such as night court or
evening on-call duties that justify an early departure.
If judges are getting their work done before 3:00 PM on many days, it calls into question
whether there are too many judges or cases are assigned in an inefficient way that leaves some
judges too much time on their hands and other judges too busy. At the very least, it casts a bad
public perception on the bench and could well damage public confidence in the Court. It is
unlikely that the public believes that judges are doing work at home that they could be doing in
their chambers.
In many states, judges (even though they are independently elected officials) are not
permitted to routinely leave the courthouse for the day after the conclusion of their calendars
without receiving authorization from or notifying a supervising or chief judge. California is an
example of a state that has dealt with such an issue, although the judge’s conduct was
particularly egregious. The inquiry, decision, and order by the California Commission on Judicial
Performance on April 14, 2009, reads as follows…

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Inquiry Concerning Sheldon, Decision and Order (California Commission on Judicial
Performance April 15, 2009) (http://cjp.ca.gov/files/2016/08/Sheldon_Censure_4-
15-09.pdf) Accepting a stipulation for discipline by consent, the California
Commission on Judicial Performance publicly censured a judge for routinely leaving
the courthouse for the day before noon and after the conclusion of his calendar
without receiving authorization from or notifying his supervising judges. The judge
agreed to tender his irrevocable resignation in writing to be effective October 2,
2009, to not preside over any judicial proceedings as of May 12, 2009, and not to
seek or hold judicial office in California.

The judge has been assigned to the juvenile dependency department since
August 2005. The dependency calendar routinely concludes before noon. Since
early 2007 through late 2008, the judge routinely left the courthouse for the day
after the calendar concluded. The judge did not inform his supervising judges of his
routine absences during court hours and did not seek or receive authorization for
these half-day absences. On occasion, the juvenile delinquency judge handled ex
parte dependency matters due to Judge Sheldon’s afternoon absences. Judge
Sheldon generally did not seek to make himself available for other judicial work
during these absences.

The Commission concluded: By regularly absenting himself from the
courtroom before noon without the approval of his supervising judges for a period
of almost two years, Judge Sheldon has demonstrated a flagrant disregard for his
obligations to his fellow judges, the public, and the reputation of the judiciary. A
judge’s responsibilities are not limited to the completion of the daily calendar.
Judges who conclude their calendars early in the day may be assigned other duties;
including presiding over cases other courts are unable to handle due to time
limitations or disqualification and handling ex parte motions. Unapproved absences
can have a significant impact on the operation of the court, especially in a court
such as Riverside with a longstanding and well-publicized backlog of court cases.

A state court rule requires that a judge request “approval of the presiding
judge for any intended absence of one-half days or more, within a reasonable time
before the intended absence.” The judge conceded that he violated his
administrative duty under this rule by failing to seek approval for his regular half-
day absences.

The Commission stated: Public confidence in the integrity of the judiciary is
seriously undermined when a judge routinely leaves the courthouse early without
approval. Taxpayers of the State of California have a right to expect that judges are
available to provide the services for which they are paid. As stated by Judge
Rothman, “The public does not owe judges extra time off, or anything other than
what the law allows, in gratitude for the hard work judges must expend.” . . . Judge
Sheldon’s routine of working part-time while being paid a full-time salary is utterly
unacceptable and casts disrepute upon the judicial office.

The Commission noted the judge’s misconduct was even more egregious
because he had been publicly admonished in 1998 for conduct that included
abandonment of his judicial responsibilities, stating “unfortunately, the issuance of

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a public admonishment did not deter Judge Sheldon from abandoning his judicial
responsibilities in the future.”

2.2.2 Conclusions, Recommendations and Strategies

If the work of the District Court is unbalanced and unequal among the judges, and there
is limited camaraderie or corporate responsibility among the judges for the work of the Court
as a whole, the Court may wish to consider implementing a classic individual calendar system
by dividing all case types equally among the seventeen judges.
The greatest strength of an individual calendar is that each judge takes singular
responsibility for his/her caseload, is more easily motivated to exercise management control,
and is accountable for cases proceeding to disposition in a timely manner. The judge becomes
familiar with the individual nature of each case and need not “relearn” the facts and issues at
each stage of the proceedings. Since the case stays with one judge, rulings are consistent, and
attorneys cannot “judge shop” to see if they can obtain a more favorable decision from another
judge.
Productivity can be readily assessed. Individual accountability can be tracked.
There are some downsides, however. In an individual calendar system without central
management, each judge is concerned only for his or her own cases. The isolation from
colleagues that judges may experience can be exacerbated, and there may be no incentive to
help another judge with day-to-day calendar problems. Absent coordination among judges, an
individual calendar system can also create scheduling conflicts for an attorney, who may be
expected to appear before two different judges at the same time unless the involved judges
agree to calendar in ways to accommodate the attorneys. Finally, an individual calendar system
may also require more support staff and associated resources per judge since each judge is
responsible for managing his or her own calendar from beginning to end.
A number of District Court judges felt individual calendaring would work at the Court.
So, to a certain extent, there is some existing momentum to move in this direction.
3. If the District Court concludes the Triage / Differentiated Calendar method is
not a desirable option to implement, the Chief Judge should appoint a District
Judges Committee to create an Individual Calendar Plan.
4. A time table and written Caseflow Management Plan should be developed
giving details about the case processing techniques that will be employed in
the individual calendaring system. It serves as a concise blueprint of how the
individual calendaring system will operate. The process in preparing and
reviewing drafts of the plan can serve to identify problems, to think
through main tasks, pinpoint key responsibilities, and target dates for
implementing major parts of the plan. As with any development of a triage /

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differentiated calendar plan, justice system stakeholders should be part of the
planning process.

2.3 LIMIT AND MONITOR CONTINUANCES
Best Practice: Continuances delay the resolution of cases and clog court calendars with
unnecessary hearings. They diminish the expectation that hearings will actually occur
which promotes a lack of adequate preparation by attorneys. While there are times
when continuances are necessary, they should only be granted when not doing so would
deprive a party of his or her rights, when individuals or other necessary resources are
unexpectedly and legitimately not available, or for other unforeseen, substantiated
emergencies. Attorneys and litigants should expect that events will occur as scheduled
and that they will move the case forward toward disposition, regardless of the type of
disposition.

2.3.1 Findings, Observations and Commentary
There is clearly a perception by justice system stakeholders that there are excessive
numbers of continuances requested and granted, many lacking good cause. Continuances and
postponements seem to commonly begin at the very first settings of a case, and then reoccur
throughout the duration of most cases. Unfortunately, there is a general expectation among
the bar that continuances will be granted, especially if both lawyers stipulate to the request.
There appears to be no correlation between the length of a continuance granted, and the time
needed to complete whatever tasks were required to be done by the lawyers.
Although no definitive data is available concerning where in the caseflow
postponements occur, how many times a “pass” is given in a particular case, the reason for the
delay, the length of delay permitted, and which judge issued the “pass;” it is obvious from the
number of duplicative events logged into the CMS that numerous postponements take place.
There are too many opportunities before too many judges for attorneys to obtain
continuances. There were reasons advanced by those interviewed that tend to promote higher
numbers of “passes.” Some conclude delayed discovery is the major problem. Others say
overbooked calendars, too many combined calendars, and conflicts by lawyers in having to be
in multiple courts at the same time. Still others feel defense attorneys operate on the principle
that delay is an ally and “justice denied is justice achieved,” especially for clients who are not in
custody.
Whatever the reasons, there needs to be a point in the caseflow where it becomes
progressively more difficult to obtain a “pass.” Some courts have resorted to limiting the
number of days a judge can independently give a continuance and require that any case
collectively continued more than a certain number of days would have to be referred to a

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special continuance judge or administrative judge for a hearing on the record. The requesting
attorney(s) have to complete and file a formal written request prior to the hearing specifically
stating the reasons for the delay. Essentially, this approach creates an extra step or event for
those wishing to delay a case that they could easily avoid if the underlying purpose of the delay
is due primarily to lawyer unpreparedness. The psychology behind such a burdensome
additional appearance (which could be scheduled after normal court hours to avoid disrupting
other scheduled appearances) is to prompt lawyers to practice competently rather than
incompetently.
The routine granting of continuance requests without requiring a showing of
exceptional cause, signals a lack of judicial control over case progress and produces case delays
and backlogs. In courts where the prevailing view is that dates are not credible and
continuances are easily obtained, lawyers are less likely to meet deadlines.
Also, it should be noted that processing continuances is not an effective use of
resources and often increases overall litigation and administrative costs by creating extra
paperwork for the parties and Court support staff. Equally damaging, continuances cause
witnesses, victims, attorneys and defendants to make unnecessary trips to the courthouse, wait
long periods in court only to have their case postponed, and ultimately can discourage
witnesses from appearing a second, third of fourth time.
2.3.2 Conclusions, Recommendations and Strategies

A trial court’s ability to hold events on the initial date they are set is closely associated
with timely case disposition. Efficient trial courts exhibit fewer continuances by the parties or
by the court’s own motion. A general rule of thumb in high performing courts is that cases
should not be passed or re-set more than an average of 1.5 times during their life prior to
disposition.

5. Meaningful management data regarding continuances should be developed,
including where in the caseflow a continuance occurs, who requested it, why it
was requested, whether it was stipulated to or objected to by opposing
counsel, who (judge) granted it, and how long a period it was granted. If the
Court’s case management system cannot be programmed to capture this
information and produce regular reports, periodic sampling of closed cases
should be undertaken.

6. Current continuance policies, rules or administrative orders by the Court in
general and each judge should be assembled, reviewed, and amended as
necessary to ensure they apply to all Court proceedings, including but not
limited to all pretrial hearings or events.

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7. Continuance data by judicial officer should be published periodically for
internal review by all judges of the Court and the Jefferson County Trial Courts
Administrator. Review, as appropriate, about continuance activity should
be an item for discussion at bench meetings.

8. The Chief Judge should counsel with any judicial officer granting inordinate
numbers of continuances or resets on his/her calendar.

2.4 ENSURE EVENTS ARE MEANINGFUL AND SCHEDULES REALISTIC
Best Practices: Effective caseflow management systems create an expectation of
timeliness by providing credible events and dates that move cases toward disposition,
regardless of the type of disposition.
2.4.1 Findings, Observations and Commentary
A special run of 200 random, recently closed DUI and Criminal/Traffic cases (defendant
files) by the Clerk of Courts’ Office listing the scheduled events for each case was requested and
reviewed by the National Center. The events tabulated were pretrial conferences, show cause
hearings and other hearings as designated in the case management system statistics. For DUI
cases, an average of 7.7 pre-trial separate court hearings were held per case before it was
closed. For criminal traffic cases, 3.9 pre-trial hearings were held before disposition. The
results appear on the next page. The data specifics analyzed are…

• 200 randomly selected DUI, TRAFFIC, MISDEMEANOR A; MISDEMEANOR B offenses;
• Disposed from January 1, 2015 thru December 14, 2016;
• Excludes cases with charges closed as FTA, FTV, AP, DIV, PTD and case types SE, SG,
DCTD, DCTG;
• Out of 200 cases (defendants), 85 cases (42.5%) had all charges dismissed

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District Court, Jefferson County, Kentucky Caseflow and Calendaring Study

Scheduled Events by Case (Defendant)18
Case Type Cases19 Pretrial Pretrials Show Cause Show Causes Other20 Others
Total per case Total per case Total per case
Traffic21 130 367 2.8 87 0.7 59 0.5
DUI 70 371 5.3 76 1.1 97 1.4

Total Events Scheduled by Case (Defendant)
13
Case Type Total Events Mean per case14 Median per case15 Mode16 Range17
Traffic 513 3.9 3 1 15
DUI 544 7.7 7 3 27

Overall, an average of 7.7 separate pre-trial appearances for a “standard” DUI case is
high for an urban limited jurisdiction court in the opinion of NCSC consultants given our
experience with similar courts. Criminal/Traffic cases at 3.7 pre-trial appearances is more in-
line with what may be expected in other urban jurisdictions for misdemeanor and traffic
violations.22 All-in-all, it appears to NCSC that District Court judges tend to touch DUI cases too

13
Includes all the following scheduled events: pretrial hearings, show cause hearings, other hearings as designated
in the case management statistics
14
Mean = average; total number of scheduled events divided by the number of cases.
15
Median = the most common number of events
16
Mode = the number of events that occurs the most often
17
Range = the difference between the largest number of events and the smallest number of events. Traffic
scheduled events per case ranged from 0 to 16; DUI scheduled events per case ranged from 1 to 28.
18
The events tabulated were pretrial conferences, show-cause hearings and other hearings as designated in case
management system statistics. The following scheduled events were not tabulated due to their small number:
trials (jury and court), proof appearances, pleas, preliminary hearings, diversions, motions, and arraignments.
19
Cases = number of defendants; not charges. Number of randomly selected disposed cases: 200
20
Other = includes the following events: review hearing, suppression hearing, discovery conference, probation
violation hearing, and “other” hearings (not identified in the case management system statistics.
21
Traffic (excluding DUI)
22
Class A misdemeanors include assault and battery, bad-check writing, marijuana possession, perjury, public
lewdness, driving while intoxicated, unlawful possession of a weapon and violation of a restraining order. Class A
misdemeanors carry a maximum punishment of 12 months in local jail and fines of up to $500. Class B
misdemeanors carry lesser maximum penalties of 90 days in jail and fines of up to $250. These offenses include
criminal mischief, criminal trespass, graffiti and theft of property less than $500. The least serious category of
crime is violations, which include offenses such as speeding, failure to abide by a city or county ordinance, public
intoxication and various other minor traffic violations that carry a maximum fine of $250.

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District Court, Jefferson County, Kentucky Caseflow and Calendaring Study

many times without any finality (i.e. disposition), meaning every justice system player (i.e.
judges, attorneys, and court staff) works harder and longer than necessary to reach a result
produced with fewer appearances in most other urban limited jurisdiction courts.
Next, NCSC compared the combined average DUI/Criminal Traffic Cases elapse times
from filing to disposition for the 200 random cases (January 1, 2015 thru December 14, 2016) to
the combined average for Misdemeanor/Traffic Cases reported in the KyCourts’ Annual
Jefferson County District Court Closing Caseload Report for CY 2016. The result showed a
rather dramatic difference. The random case report when adjusted for outliers (a data point
that significantly differs from the other data points in the sample) displays an average of 7.33
months while the KyCourts’ report revealed 2.96 months.
Admittedly, these statistics are not strictly proportional. They raise questions,
nevertheless, about how best to evaluate case processing performance. As a result, it may be
wise to conduct out further sampling concerning elapse times for major case types.
District Court, Jefferson County KY
Traffic and DUI Cases (Defendants): Elapse Time from Filing to Disposition
Days (Months)

Total Sample: 200 Random Cases
MEAN MEDIAN MODE RANGE
291.35 (9.39) 227.5 (7.33) 99 (3.19) 2499 (80.61)

5 Lowest and 5 highest Cases Removed as Outliers: 190 Random Cases
MEAN MEDIAN MODE RANGE
269 (8.67) 227.5 (7.33) 99 (3.19) 659 (21.25)

Without detailed data on continuances, the number of events and median elapse times
from filing to disposition for DUI and Criminal/Traffic cases helps in arriving at a cursory
understanding of calendar event and scheduling problems.
2.4.2 Conclusions, Recommendations, Strategies
The pretrial phase of criminal/traffic caseflow in limited jurisdiction courts is as
important and critical as it is in general jurisdiction courts. Data nationwide show that well over
90% of criminal and traffic cases, as well as criminal cases in higher-level courts are disposed
prior to trial.
Pretrial procedures and events need to be thought of as a process rather than an
isolated series of scheduled events or conferences. The purpose is to narrow the issues in a
case, clearly identify the options, assess the strength of the evidence and any mitigating

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circumstances, and lead to a plea to the original or reduced charges. In doing so, it is critical for
the court to promote preparation by the lawyers for pretrial events. Counsel preparation is the
single most important factor in any criminal settlement process.
The conference must be realistically set far enough in advance to permit preparation
but short enough to stimulate preparation. Of importance in the preparation process for the
accused and defense counsel to determine a future course of action is adequate time to review
crucial evidence (i.e. videos, forensic results, etc.), obtain basic discovery, review any plea offer
by the state, and privately discuss the strength of the state’s case. It is necessary that the
defendant be present.
Also, the optimal time for lawyers to make a decision on whether to try or settle an
individual case is typically after they have learned enough about the case but before they have
become so committed to preparing a detailed defense or prosecution strategy and acquiring
additional discovery that they might as well set it for trial. In helping to expedite relevant early
case dispositions, it is also important for the Court to create circumstances for the prosecutors
and defense counsel to avoid unnecessary delay in the resolution of motions (and especially
motions to suppress evidence), provision of disclosures and discovery, and realistic discussion
of plea prospects.
All of this considered, the early morning scramble by prosecutors and defense lawyers
to review criminal / traffic files in attorney conference rooms outside District courtrooms gives
the indication the process is very hurried, disordered and lacks the thoroughness needed to
adequate review pretrial information. In such situations, it may actually foster continuances
rather than stimulate settlements.
Another approach to “harden” court events involving criminal cases is a plea cut-off
policy. Plea cut-off policies are common in many state trial courts across the country. They are
a standard and acceptable case management practice and require the willingness of the
prosecutor’s office to implement and follow such a practice.
A typical policy requires defendants to accept or reject a plea offer at a specific time
before trial, usually prior to a trial date but after essential discovery has been exchanged and
the defense has had time to assess the offer. If the accused chooses to plea after that time, she
or he must plead to the original charge(s) filed by the prosecutor unless extenuating
circumstances are found by the court that are inconsistent with the fair administration of
justice.
A plea cut-off policy provides both prosecutors and defense lawyers’ strong incentives
to evaluate the merits of their respective positions and make informed and timely decisions to
negotiate a plea or try their case. Such policies also tend to reduce spurious case continuance
requests. At first glance, the policy may sound unfair to the defendant, but in practice it

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operates as an inducement to engage in meaningful discussions about the strength and value of
a case.
To be successful, such a policy must provide an opportunity for a “best and final” offer
that is credibly based on the evidence and what a reasonable defense attorney would expect to
happen if the case went to trial. The defense attorney must have received sufficient
discoverable evidence to assess the strength of the prosecution’s case and met the defendant
enough to have attorney-client credibility in discussing the prosecution offer. And the defense
in assessing the offer must carefully weigh three elements: (a) the seriousness of the charge
and particular circumstances of the case, (b) the strength of the state’s evidence and whether it
can be successfully refuted by facts and testimony from the defense, and (c) the defendant’s
background, including prior criminal convictions.
Plea cut-off policies do not, in and of themselves, violate constitutional protections for
criminal defendants. They are in use in many courts, including a statewide rule in New Jersey,23
and have been repeatedly upheld by appellate courts.24
9. A closer look at and analysis of the pretrial process by the Court should take
place in concert with the County Attorney’s and public and private defense
bars to assess the effectiveness of the current pretrial process. A joint
bench/prosecutor/defense task force initiated by the District Court Chief Judge
and staffed by the Trial Courts Administrator or Administrative Office of the
Courts would be an appropriate approach.
10. Court leaders should explore with the County Attorney and the defense bar as
appropriate the possibility of instituting a plea cut-off policy for District Court
criminal cases on an experimental basis and evaluate the results.
11. The Trial Courts Administrator, with the assistance of the Administrative Office
of the Kentucky Courts, the County Attorney, and local defense bar should
review District Court discovery turnaround times in Jefferson County for digital
(videos, body camera) and forensic evidence as well as the nature and timing
of discovery exchange between prosecution and defense. Where there are
verifiable, continuous systemwide problems or delays, remedies should be
sought and implemented.

23
N.J. CT. R. Rule 3:9-3(g) (2009) (“Plea Cut Off. After the pretrial conference has been conducted and a trial date
set, the court shall not accept negotiated pleas absent the approval of the Criminal Presiding Judge based on a
material change of circumstance, or the need to avoid a protracted trial or a manifest injustice.”)
24
Michigan v. Grove, 566 N.W.2d 547, 558-60 (Mich. 1997).

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2.5 DEVELOP ACCURATE, TIMELY, USEFUL CASE MANAGEMENT DATA
Best Practices: Effective caseflow management for individual judicial officers in
managing their dockets, and for a court as an institution in assessing, monitoring and
correcting unnecessary delay in the overall pace of litigation, requires timely, complete,
accurate, and useful data. To this end, a court’s information system – whether digitized
or not - must deliver correct operational statistics to the right people, at the right time,
and in the right format.
2.5.1 Findings, Observations and Commentary
There is a significant need for useful, analytic information regarding the pace of case
processing that can be used in actionable ways by the District Court to diagnose delay problems
and develop improvement options. Routine KyCourts statistical information and reports tend
to be broad in their current format and not overly useful for case management purposes
regarding such data as elapse times between major events (not just between filing and final
disposition), age of pending caseloads by case types, and continuance tracking. One-off reports
can likely be created, so there may be the possibility of producing more meaningful operational
data on a reoccurring basis.
Most trial courts need better performance data to monitor the pace of litigation. It’s
often difficult to produce, however, since the original design purpose of traditional case
management systems is to automate results of judicial and staff decisions and actions. Even as
CMS systems have been increasingly upgraded to computerize business processes involving
routine clerical tasks in managing cases over the years, monitoring the progress and movement
of cases from one adjudicatory proceeding to the next has not been seen as a critical need.
The National Center’s four core case processing performance measures, part of its
CourTools suite of ten analytics developed to assess the work of trial courts, are at the heart of
the performance assessment data that needs to be routinely captured by the Court and likely
throughout the State for all courts. They include clearance rates, time to disposition by case
type, age of active pending caseload by categories of cases, and trial date certainty. A review of
these measures can be obtained at www.courtools.org.
The use of new analytical software applications to help judges and court system leaders
better manage individual caseloads as well as courtwide operations is only now beginning to
surface in more robust and useful formats. Wisconsin is, perhaps, the most advanced state to
date in providing real-time case tracking software – called a “judicial dashboard” – that allows
individual judges to find virtually all the information they need about their assigned cases and
calendars. The Superior Court in Maricopa County, Arizona (Greater Phoenix) is another leader
in developing and using visualization tools as a management approach in producing caseflow
statistics in more meaningful and actionable ways.

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District Court, Jefferson County, Kentucky Caseflow and Calendaring Study

2.5.2 Conclusions, Recommendations, Strategies
A complexity inherent in many statewide automated case management systems is their
inability to produce an array of useful, detailed trial court caseflow analytics as part of a
standard suite of programs or applications. It is understandable, however, in states where
calendaring process are not consistent from court to court as is the situation in Kentucky.
Since the District Court operates and calendars cases much differently than most district
courts in the state, it likely is a problem specific to Jefferson County. In any regard, discussions
with the AOC should take place to search for ways KyCourts could assist the Court in its efforts
to more accurately measure its case processing performance.
12. At a minimum, all four CourTool case processing measures should be
produced on an ad hoc basis by KyCourts, as possible, for the District Court.
13. If special KyCourts’ generated reports for the District Court in Jefferson County
are not feasible, Court leaders should explore other options to produce
periodic performance data on CourTool measures, including sampling closed
case files with the assistance of the Clerk of Court.
14. A gap analysis should be undertaken to determine whether the data fields in
the KyCourts can be configured to produce meaningful CourTool management
reports by case category regarding clearance rates, time to disposition, age of
active pending caseload, and trial date certainty.

2.6 ADDRESS WORKLOAD AND WORKFORCE ISSUES
Best Practice: Reengineering caseflow efficiencies and process improvements in light of
limited resources while simultaneously not appreciably diminishing either the access to
or the quality of justice is a given today in the world of state courts. Courts, as all
government institutions, are having to do more with the same. Of particular importance
in doing so is to analyze, redesign and reorganize court processes with a focus on what’s
best for the public rather than what’s good for the court.

2.6.1 Findings, Observations and Commentary
A number of workload and workforce distresses surfaced in discussions with judges.
Many are similar to those faced by other urban limited jurisdiction courts; although some,
admittedly, are unique to Jefferson County and Kentucky. In the opinion of the Center, none
present major roadblocks to revamping caseflow and calendaring in the Court. In addressing
these issues, NCSC has outlined them below and in the following best practices section
identifies possible solutions.

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District Court, Jefferson County, Kentucky Caseflow and Calendaring Study

A Statewide weighted case load (WCL) study by the National Center in January 2016, at
the request of the Kentucky Legislature and agreed to by the Kentucky Supreme Court,
reportedly concluded that the District Court caseload in Jefferson County would support 19.6
judges. The Court at full complement has only 17.0 full-time judges. Consequently, there is
noticeable resentment on the part of many judges that State Court leadership has not allocate
additional judges.

The majority of judges are in agreement that the non-judicial staff is overworked.
There is one District Court Administrator who functions as the chief manager/coordinator for
the Court under the direction of the Trial Courts Administrator. She has two assistants. She
rarely takes her full vacation every year. She tries her best to arrange coverage for absent
judges on an almost daily basis. Many judges will respond to her calls for help out of affection
and loyalty to her; some will not because they are resentful of the perceived uneven judicial
workloads. Many wish they had a secretary, judicial assistant, or shared secretarial staff.
Several mentioned that even a paralegal or a law clerk would help. (There has been little or no
effort to recruit interns from the local law school to assist the Court). Some judges point to
smaller rural courts where district court judges purportedly have secretarial staff.
Every day of the year, one judge is assigned to “on-call duty” for 24-hours (currently
6:00 AM to 5:59 AM the next day). Another judge is assigned as a backup “on-call” duty judge in
case the primary judge cannot be reached.
This assignment requires that the “on-call” judge cover calls from pretrial services to set
bail or conditions of release. Other agencies may call with emergent matters at the same times.
If the primary judge is handling an on-call matter, or is on the bench, the caller may send an
email or call another judge, advising that the duty judge has not responded. The judges resent
this supposition as they believe it unfairly criticizes them. There appears to be a lack of
communication among the justice agencies regarding their call protocols and priorities.
“Overnight on-call duty” is regarded generally as one of the most onerous parts of a
judges’ duty in Jefferson County. (However, there were several judges of the opinion it “is part
of the job and we all knew it when we ran for office”). This assignment consists of handling
various emergent matters at night. Search warrant applications are common. These can be
done electronically, but some judges remain resistant to technology and require officers to
personally appear before them. Emergency IPOs and EPOs are also handled at night. There is
widespread opposition to dealing with IPOs as an additional duty. This is a relatively new case
type involving the issuance of restraints in dating and stalking relationships as opposed to EPOs,
the more traditional restraints issued in domestic violence cases. The Supreme Court decided
to vest all jurisdiction of IPOs in the District Court instead of the Family Circuit Court (this we
assume is the case in each judicial district that has a Family Circuit Court).

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District Court, Jefferson County, Kentucky Caseflow and Calendaring Study

Four nights a week a trial commissioner takes the emergent EPO and IPO calls and sets
bail. There are two trial commissioners who alternate covering overnight on-call duty Sunday
through Wednesday from midnight to 7:00 AM. The trial commissioners are lawyers with full-
time day positions with the courts in Jefferson County. They are appointed to and salaried
extra for this duty. Even if a trial court commissioner is on duty, a judge will still be called in the
event of the need to issue a search warrant or for any other type of emergency order a
commissioner cannot do.
The District Court judges are almost unanimous in their desire to extend the trial
commissioner emergent overnight duties to seven days per week. The judges emphasize that
every 17 weeks when a judge is on duty Thursday night without the assistance of a trial court
commissioner, that judge still must come in and sit on a busy Friday calendar.
Downtown evening traffic court is held at the Hall of Justice four nights a week
(Monday thru Thursday). The calendars are not generally large. The Court staff has questioned
the need for four dockets.
Suburban evening traffic court is held every Tuesday and Wednesday evening in
Okolona and Middletown, respectively. The calendar consists of approximately 200-300 traffic
cases. The premises are not secure; there are metal detecting wands now being used by the
Sheriff deputies assigned, but there are other unlocked entry points into the buildings. These
dockets are covered by the judge who was assigned to the prior Saturday arraignment docket.
Sessions last 1 ½ to 2 hours on average. Court staff, interpreters, prosecutors and defense
attorneys, along with the judges, must travel to these locations. Files must be transported back
and forth. If the case does not plead at the first appearance, the next appearance is moved
downtown causing some confusion among the litigants. The practice of holding these sessions
began around 1978 and was the desire of one elected official in Okolona who has recently
retired. The reasons for initially initiating the suburban evening court were political in part and
logistical in part since there was insufficient room for courtrooms in the old downtown
courthouse location. Neither of those reasons are relevant today. The judges are almost
uniformly opposed to continuing this calendar.
A District Court judge every 17 weeks is assigned to Saturday arraignment court,
including holidays, except for Thanksgiving and Christmas when the “on-call” judge covers
arraignment court. It is held at the Metro Department of Corrections (jail) in downtown
Louisville near the Hall of Justice. The arraignment calendar begins at 9:00 AM and continues
until the end of the docket.
Per Diem Judges are retired judges who are available to return to duty at State expense
and are used only to cover calendars in the event of a long-term absence due to an emergency.
They are not used to cover routine vacation or minimal sick time absences. The use of a Senior

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District Court, Jefferson County, Kentucky Caseflow and Calendaring Study

Judge must be approved by the Supreme Court. Many District Court judges feel the Supreme
Court should allow the use of a Senior Judge to cover vacations.
Kentucky statutes require jury trials in uncontested guardianship cases. The District
Court judges have requested the State Legislature to eliminate this requirement but have not
been successful. The judges and others in the civil justice system feel this is a waste of jurors’,
judges’ and lawyers’ time.
2.6.2 Conclusions, Recommendations, Strategies
The weighted case load (WCL) study by the National Center was conducted statewide during
four weeks in the spring of 2015. Judges recorded their time on case related and non-case
related work in 5 minute increments. The analysis did not assess judicial position need at a
court level. All circuit, family and district judges in the state were the focus of the workload
analysis. Trial commissioners were not included in the study.
After-hours on-call work by district judges across the state was a widespread concern. The
report verbiage on page 10 states…
“In every judicial district, a judge must be available 24 hours per day, 7 days per week to
sign search warrants and arrest warrants, conduct juvenile detention reviews, issue
emergency protective orders, review petitions for emergency custody orders in cases of
child neglect or abuse, and address mental health emergencies. Outside of court hours,
judges also conduct night court and weekend arraignments. In single-judge districts, this
means that the judge is effectively on call 24 hours per day, 365 days per year. Although
judges emphasized the critical importance of providing public access to justice at any
time for these emergency matters, they also noted that the fatigue associated with on-
call work can have a negative impact on judicial decision-making. Some judges
suggested that changes to the on-call system such as pooling on-call work across district
lines could reduce the burden on individual judges while maintaining continuous access
to justice for the public.”

There is no “bright line” regarding the way to think about judge need and a “rounding
rule or threshold” according to National Center WCL experts. What the Center suggests is that
a state set a policy regarding rounding up or down as to judge need. In the case of the
Jefferson District Court, a need of 19.2 FTE judges when divided by 17 existing positions means
each judge is only working 13% more than a full-time position (2.2 FTE judge need ÷ 17.0 FTE
full-time judges = 0.129 or 13%). Many states may consider that not to be significant enough to
add an additional judgeship.
Here’s what the report says on page 15 about the “rounding rule or threshold” …

“To calculate judicial workload in each trial court, NCSC multiplied the court’s average
annual filings for each case type by the corresponding case weight, then summed the
workload across all case types. The total judicial workload was then divided by the

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District Court, Jefferson County, Kentucky Caseflow and Calendaring Study

appropriate year value to determine the number of FTE judges required to handle the
workload. Because each judge is a full-time employee, fractional need in each court was
then rounded to the nearest whole number that would not require any judge to work
more than 1.25 FTE. For example, if a court’s judicial need was calculated at 2.73 FTE,
rounding down to two judges would require each judge to perform 1.37 FTE worth of
case-related work, so judge need would be rounded up to three (.91 FTE per judge).
After rounding in each court, statewide judicial need was calculated at 117 district court
judges, 99 circuit court judges, and 63 family court judges, given the current
configuration of judicial circuits, districts, and family courts.”

Nationwide, many urban limited jurisdiction courts are quite restricted regarding non-
judicial staffing. Very few provide secretaries or judicial assistants to individual judges,
although a small number of staff may be assigned and shared by two or three judges.

In most instances, all non-judicial staff, including general clerical employees, courtroom
clerks, supervisors, and managers, serve under the authority of an appointed court
administrator. It is rare for elected clerks of court to manage and oversee the majority of staff
in a limited jurisdiction court as is done in Jefferson County. Some courts do have one or two
part or full-time law clerks overseen by the court administrator.

In deference to the district courts in the State, however, most limited jurisdiction courts
do not handle the array of cases they do in Kentucky. Generally, many of the civil cases
handled by district courts, including juvenile, guardianships, probate, and mental commitment
matters, are not part of the array of services for most limited jurisdiction courts nationwide.

Also, it is important to note that should the District Court opt to reconfigure their
calendars in either a triaged / differentiated model or an individual calendar pattern, additional
dedicated clerical and management staff likely would be needed to perform case management
duties not currently done (i.e. monitor case progress, collect caseflow data, etc.). Currently,
there are very few, if any, case management functions performed since the bulk of support
staff operate under the Clerk of Court and are focused on clerical and recordkeeping duties.
For economies of scale and flexibility any additional staff should be assigned and supervised by
the Trial Courts Administrator.

Daytime and overnight on-call duties to handle emergency or after-hours orders of
protection, search warrants are typical responsibilities of limited jurisdiction judges in both
urban and rural areas of a state. As occurs in Jefferson County, the duty is rotated among all
judges in a court or region to reduce its onerous effects. The duty in some urban areas has
been assigned to appointed judicial adjuncts (i.e. commissioners, referees, hearing officers),
some of whom work the night-shift throughout the week and on weekends. Given the Friday

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District Court, Jefferson County, Kentucky Caseflow and Calendaring Study

calendar complications the District Court judges face in handling overnight duty on Thursday
nights, it is suggested trial commissioners assume this duty seven days a week.

Courts throughout the country have steadily moved toward electronic search warrants,
telephonic and digital video appearances, and electronic judicial signatures to simplify after-
hours emergent matters. It should be a required practice for all judges performing these
functions.

Satellite court hearings during the day or in the evening at suburban or center city
courthouses for traffic, minor criminal/civil, and ordinance violations have greatly diminished
nationwide over the last few decades. Many courts have found that costs in adjudicating cases
after hours, even small issue matters, do not outweigh the benefits. As an example, security
expenses in keeping a courthouse open, or in the alternative, operating in outlying makeshift
locations is expensive. Often, downtown courthouses are in older, less secure sections of cities
creating safety issues for summoned litigants having to negotiate parking lots and streets and
garages near a court complex.
In some instances, court employees who serve after-hours may work a “flex-time”
schedule, allowing them to substitute after-hours time for daytime working hours. No real
savings in personnel costs result and daytime staffing is correspondingly reduced. Where
employees are paid for additional hours, it represents a new cost. At a minimum, staffing
would include public lawyers, clerks, court attendants, custodial and security staff. Where
unions represent court staff, shift differentials and overtime may often be an issue.
The benefits typically touted for after-hours court operations usually center on three
things: Firstly, improved access to justice for the public (i.e. no need to take time off from
work; for some, better child care solutions are possible), secondly, reduced overtime for law
enforcement officers regarding traffic or ordinance violation hearings heard after-hours when
officers may be working their regular shifts, and thirdly, decreased trial court delay where case
processing is a problem. Each of these benefits is questionable when compared to the actual
experience of many courts conducting after-hours operations.
First, many night and weekend courts have been abandoned because few people opted
to voluntarily come to court on their “free time.” No shows and requests for continuances
were often even more prevalent than daytime court regarding respondents and witnesses in
civil actions who were subpoenaed. The result: significant rescheduling occurred in many
situations. Also, given the fact that evening and weekend bus service to may be limited, some
litigants view it as a hardship and choose not to appear. Second, pulling police officers off
patrol at night and on weekends affects the very time they are most needed on the streets.
Correspondingly, NCSC studies have found that by docketing in a collaboratively manner with
law enforcement agencies via integrated computer systems, police officer overtime can be

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District Court, Jefferson County, Kentucky Caseflow and Calendaring Study

more effectively reduced during regular daytime court sessions. Lastly, a backlogged court
normally has systemic, organization, and management issues as the primary causes of trial
court delay, not the lack of time available to handle cases. Rarely would the addition of two or
three hours in an evening or on a weekend considerably reduce a clogged calendar without
substantial management changes.
Arraignment court on the weekend is a common feature in most urban areas. Often,
judicial officers will rotate in such an assignment on shared, equal schedule where there are not
dedicated full-time judicial officers (primarily appointed judicial adjuncts) that are available to
handle those proceedings.
National Center consultants know of no state Supreme Court that assigns senior
(retired) judges to substitute for full-time general or limited jurisdiction trial judges when those
judicial officers may be on vacation. Most states have limited funds to compensate retired
judges and when they do assign them to assist a court it is primarily in emergency
circumstances or unavoidable long absences of a sitting judge.
Jury trials in uncontested guardianship cases is not a common practice in state courts
nationwide. National Center consultants question the wisdom of requiring jury trials in these
matters for children who have reached the age of 18. Calling in jurors for such cases when
medical and psychiatric reports and testimony is generally not disputed is a tremendous waste
of resources.
15. If the District Court opts to develop either a triage / differentiated or individual
calendar system, it likely will be necessary to review, analyze and detail non-
judicial staffing needs. Current staff housed in and assigned by the Clerk of
Court are principally dedicated to courtroom recordkeeping duties. The small
number of non-judicial District Court are largely focused on logistical and
ancillary clerical duties. It may be possible to redefine existing jobs, even those
in the Clerk’s Office, to take on new roles in case management. To that end, it
is important to engage all core justice system stakeholders (i.e. Clerk of Court,
AOC, and Jefferson County) in assessing the needs of a new calendar system as
well as developing the resources to provide case management support.
16. Trial commissioners should be utilized seven days a week for evening/night
emergent on-call duties.
17. Suburban evening traffic court should be eliminated.
18. Jury trials in uncontested guardianship cases should be eliminated by the State
Legislature. Currently, jury trials are required.

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District Court, Jefferson County, Kentucky Caseflow and Calendaring Study

3.0 COURT GOVERNANCE AND LEADERSHIP ISSUES
Recent management research has focused more intently on what some have started to
call “loosely coupled organizations,” essentially organizations where individual elements display
a relatively high level of autonomy vis-à-vis the larger system within which they exist.
Hospitals, research institutions, and universities are prime examples. Not only do the
professionals within them operate independently, but the work units frequently do as well.
Actions in one part of the system can have little or no effect in another, or may unpredictably
trigger responses out of proportion to the initial issues raised.25
Trial courts frequently display these same characteristics. It is no secret that some
judges conclude the traditional definitions of judicial independence – freedom from control by
other branches of government and freedom from interference in case-related decisions –
should be broadened to include freedom from control by leadership judges and managers
responsible for the day-to-day operations of the court system. Many judges, typical of
professionals whose work and reputation center on individual performance, rarely identify with
their host court other than its role to provide the accouterments and entitlements of their
office (i.e. space, support staff, courtrooms chambers, etc.).26
[Often] “at the trial court level, this thinking manifests itself in judges resisting the
notion that they should be concerned about anything other than handling ‘my cases.’ Presiding
or chief judges will frequently be heard describing themselves as ‘first among equals’ who
experience great difficulty in confronting the self-interested perspective that many judges bring
to issues of court administration and operations. In an environment where the first instinct is
to assess any proposal from the perspective of ‘how will it impact me,’ it is difficult to initiative
change, or even make decisions.”27

3.1 IMPROVE BENCH POLICY-MAKING
Best Practice: A well-defined governance structure for policy decision-making and
administration of the entire court is essential. En-banc Board of Judges’ meetings is the
medium to do so. Bench meetings should primarily be reserved for weighty policy

25
The term “loosely coupled” was coined by Larry Hirschhorn in a monograph entitled “Leading and Planning in
Loosely Coupled Organizations” a monograph published in December 1994, through the Center for Applied
Research; a management consulting firm located in Philadelphia specializing in strategic directions and
organization development.
26
“Governing Loosely Coupled Organizations in Times of Economic Stress,” Gordon Griller. State Court Trends:
2010. National Center for State Courts, Williamsburg, VA.
27
“A Case for Court Governance Principles,” Hon. Christine M Durham, Chief Justice of Utah, and Daniel J. Becker,
State Court Administrator. Published monograph. Harvard Kennedy School Program in Criminal Justice Policy and
Management. National Center for State Courts. This article may be found at…
www.hks.harvard.edu/criminaljustice/executive_sessions/statecourts

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matters, discussions of strategic and performance issues concerning the operations of
the court, and information sharing about ideas, programs and initiatives that benefit
the court, its users, and the justice community as a whole. Formalized rules regarding
collective judicial governance responsibilities, powers, duties, and authority of the
bench permit clear, meaningful input and decisions by the judges in promoting uniform
actions as an institution which can then speak clearly with one voice.
3.1.1 Findings, Observations and Commentary
Currently, the District bench normally meets once a month. Written agendas are
developed by the Chief Judge and distributed in advance of the meeting. The Chief Judge chairs
the meetings. Decisions are made by majority vote.
A matter may be suggested by a judge to be placed on the agenda. The Chief Judge has
discretion to place an item on the agenda, although a judge may bring a subject up for
discussion at a bench meeting and request it be placed on the next agenda. Discussion topics
cover a wide gamut, from legislative issues to “flower funds” with votes held in many instances.
Most, but not all judges attend the meetings. Minutes of the meetings are taken and
kept by the District Court Administrator. In recent times, at least two factions of judges have
developed that often engage in heated opposition to each other on many issues Center
consultants have been told.
3.1.2 Conclusions, Recommendations, Strategies
In organizations of all kinds, success often depends greatly on a governing board. The
board’s role, whether private, nonprofit or government based, is to oversee the health and
productivity of the organization and ensure it fulfills its purpose and mission through decisions
regarding overall policy, direction, strategy, and governance. The collective discussions and
decisions by the Board of Judges at the District Court, however, seem largely to focus on
internal work-related duties (i.e. calendar rotations, judicial absence coverage, etc.).
District Court judges, whether gathered as a bench in their governance role or
individually as trial court judges in the courtroom, tend to operate autonomously. Collegiality is
visibly strained and courtwide issues tend to fester.
Meanwhile, continuing problems in the operation and productivity of the Court need to
be addressed. Local rules should be amended. A binding judicial vacation, sick, and leave
policy should be created. And the Court en-banc needs to design a better, more productive,
balanced calendar system.
19. The Board of Judges meeting en-banc should commit to a step-by-step,
common-sense approach to collective decision-making, namely defining the
issue (problem) clearly, establishing the objective, looking at the pertinent

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information, generating alternatives, seeking additional information,
evaluating the options/alternatives, projecting the consequences for the Court
and justice stakeholders, choosing a direction (vote), monitoring the results,
and adjusting directions (subsequent votes) to optimize benefits as necessary.
20. District Court Local Rules should be updated.
21. A binding vacation, sick, and leave policy applicable to all judges should be
developed.

3.2 STRENTHEN CHIEF JUDGE ROLE AND RESPONSIBILITIES
Best Practices: A chief or presiding judge provides overall leadership and strategic
direction necessary for the success of a trial court and its associated justice systems. As
the top judicial leader, the chief judge is responsible for overseeing the operations and
functions of the court, its adjudication processes, and needed changes to improve the
administration of justice within the court’s jurisdiction.
3.2.1 Findings, Observations and Commentary
The District Court Chief Judge is elected by majority bench vote for a two-year term.
Seasoned judges who have served on the Court for numerous years generally place their name
in nomination for the position. The Court does not select its judicial leadership based on
seniority or rotation.
By convention, the Chief Judge position has limited powers to supervise the other
judges of the Court related to case and docket management, coordinating judicial schedules, or
promoting organizational change without a vote and acquiescence of the other judges. This is
true even though the Rules of the Supreme Court vest chief judges with the authority to “assign
the business of the circuit or district among the several judges as equally as possible…”28
3.2.2 Conclusions, Recommendations, Strategies
Given the problems of unnecessary delay in the District Court, there are three areas of
responsibility the National Center suggests wherein the role and responsibilities of the Chief
Judge should be exercised, and if not concluded to be authorized by the current Supreme Court
Rules for Chief Judges, authority should be granted in a special Supreme Court Administrative
Order to the District Court Chief Judge in Jefferson County based on the unique caseflow
management circumstances of that Court. This authority is consistent with the Center’s work

28
Rules of the Supreme Court (SCR) Rule 1.040 (3) Duties of the Chief Judge (c)

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and research on trial court leadership and governance and are recommended effective
practices by the Center for trial courts.29

22. An administrative order should be issued under the authority of the Supreme
Court of Kentucky empowering the Chief Judge of the District Court in Jefferson
County to supervise, coordinate and administer an efficient, balanced case
processing system for all judicial calendars and dockets within the Court and to
ensure effective caseflow management and timely disposition of all cases.

23. Consistent with Recommendation 20, the Chief Judge of District Court in
Jefferson County should be authorized to coordinate the schedules of the
judges to ensure enough judicial officers will always be available to carry out
the necessary judicial duties of the Court for every business day. This includes
vacations, community outreach, continuing education, and similar matters.

24. It should be the responsibility of the Chief Judge to work with the Board of
Judges and Trial Courts Administrator to define and develop the operational
reports needed by judges and staff to monitor every case to ensure it
is progressing through the adjudicatory process in accordance with acceptable
standards governing timeliness.

3.3 ADOPT CASE PROCESSING STANDARDS
Best Practices Timely justice is a sign of an efficient court. Time standards serve as
a benchmark for determining whether the pace of court proceedings is reasonable and
productive with no inordinate delay as compared to courts of similar size and
jurisdiction. They are a valuable tool in measuring trial court performance.

3.3.1 Findings, Observations and Commentary
Kentucky has no approved trial court processing standards. As such individual judges
and their courts are accountable to no common, acceptable level of case processing
performance. As one District Court judge noted, “Each judge is governed by his or her own
work ethic and sense of urgency.” Another judge recalled there may have once been a 120-day
deadline for minor civil case disposition, but that no longer is followed. It was also mentioned
that the Kentucky AOC may have aspirational time standards for other courts, but they were
not applicable to Jefferson County.

29
“Key Elements of an Effective Rule of Court on the Role of the Presiding Judge in Trial Courts” (monograph).
National Center for State Courts, Williamsburg VA (2006). See: http://napco4courtleaders.org/wp-
content/uploads/2012/05/PresidingJudgeEffectiveRulesofCourt.pdf

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Basic delivery of justice issues, credibility issues and public safety issues are presented
when cases are allowed to languish indefinitely with multiple “passes.” Criminal defendants
can accrue a larger and larger number of pending cases, including DUIs. Jail overcrowding can
become a problem. Civil motions and orders can sit for indefinite periods without attention.

3.3.2 Conclusions, Recommendations, Strategies
State and local courts in the United States have a long history of support for case
disposition time standards. Such standards were first proposed in the 1970s by the American
Bar Association (ABA) and widely adopted to varying degrees by state court systems.

Recently, a revised set of time standards were researched and proposed by the National
Center and adopted by the ABA (circa 2011) and numerous national court improvement
organizations. They establish reasonable sets of expectations for courts, for lawyers, and for
the public. For the courts, the standards are intended to set forth achievable performance
goals. For the lawyers, the standards establish a time framework within which to conduct their
fact-finding, preparation and advocacy activities. For the public, the standards are envisioned
to define what can be expected from their courts.

The standards recognize that there normally is a large portion of cases that should be
disposed with little court involvement; a second portion that dispose after one or two issues
are resolved (e.g. suppression motion); and a small proportion do not resolve without a trial.
These tiers are intended as points of measurement for effective case management. The
objective is to encourage the fair disposition of cases at the earliest possible time.

25. Case processing time standards should be introduced and made a goal of the
District Court in Jefferson County

3.4 COORDINATE CALENDARS WITH THE CIRCUIT COURT
Best Practices: To minimize case, litigant and lawyer conflicts in judicial proceedings,
separate trial courts located in the same community or geographical area should strive
to coordinate overall case scheduling patterns.
3.4.1 Findings, Observations and Commentary
A substantial problem in managing District Court criminal/traffic calendars is the
confusion, logistics and scheduling difficulties caused by public defenders that have matters
calendared on the same mornings in both Circuit and District Courts. Calendar delays in District
Court can run two hours or more before a substantial number of public defenders return from
their initial appearances in Circuit Court.

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These delays affect judges, defendants, staff, and law enforcement. Long periods where
little happens while the judge is on the bench take place. Judges do perform paperwork and
handle cases out of sequence to expedite matters, but work stoppages are frequent.
3.4.2 Conclusions, Recommendations, Strategies
Coordinating calendars among state courts in the same jurisdiction is a common issue
throughout the country. In doing so, the range of different needs, calendar systems, and
lawyer scheduling patterns may be tough to reconcile, but often concerted efforts can produce
positive results once the participants realize the nature of the problems and are willing to think
creatively about solutions, including remedies linked to technology.30

26. A special task force should be created by the Circuit and District Court Chief
Judges to creatively explore ways to improve the logistics and scheduling of
criminal cases in both courts to reduce calendar downtime. High-tech / high-
touch digital solutions ought to be researched in addition to scheduling
improvements.

3.5 IMPROVE JUSTICE SYSTEM COLLABORATION
Best practices: Trial courts exist at the center of a hub of justice system
interdependencies. The efficient, timely and responsible movement of cases from filing
to disposition requires the involvement of all parts of the justice system. In this mix of
loosely coupled organizations, the court is the single entity that does not have a vested
interest in the outcome of a case. Its only interest is justice. It therefore falls to court
leaders more so than any other justice system entity to spark collaboration toward
reducing delay, cost, and inefficiencies within the entire system.

3.5.1 Findings, Observations and Commentary
Local and state justice systems in most communities – Jefferson County being no
exception - are a mosaic of separate organizations and elected or appointed officials who
answer to different authorities and funding agencies often causing them to carry out their day-
to-day functions in relative isolation. The system – in truth less a system than a loosely-linked
set of processes – is overseen by different agencies that by and large interact with one another
as competitors, rivals or independent players. Each of the stakeholders’ advocate from their
own specific perspectives and manages their own part of the process.

30
In St. Paul Minnesota, as an example, a kiosk outside courtrooms is used by lawyers and defendants to
electronically alert the court and courtroom clerk they are ready to precede avoiding time calling the calendar to
determine who is present.

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3.5.2 Conclusions, Recommendations, Strategies
The existing Criminal Justice Commission in Jefferson County should be relied upon
more heavily as a forum to bring stakeholders together to assist, monitor, and promote
caseflow reform and delay reduction efforts. All interested parties should be invited to attend
meetings. Pilot projects directed at case processing improvement should be explored and
encouraged.
Those on the Commission should be involved in discussions regarding continuance
policy discussions to avoid the intolerable number of “passes” that has been building for the
past few years. The stakeholders should also address any intrinsic delays in discovery (e.g. body
camera videos, forensic lab backups and dangling charges)
27. Utilize the Planning and Coordinating Council as a forum to assist, monitor and
promote caseflow reform and delay reduction efforts.

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