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Promotes practical reform ideas to make courts more effective, more efficient, and more customer friendly

Reimagining Courts

A Design for the Twenty-First Century

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Victor E. Flango and Thomas M. Clarke

In their timely and topical book, Reimagining Courts, Victor Flango and Thomas Clarke argue that courts are a victim of their own success. Disputes that once were resolved either informally in the family or within the community are now handled mainly by courts, which strains government agency resources. The authors offer provocative suggestions for a thorough overhaul of American state and local courts, one that better fits the needs of a twenty-first century legal system.

Reimagining Courts recommends a triage process based upon case characteristics, litigant goals, and resolution processes. Courts must fundamentally reorganize their business processes around the concept of the litigant as a customer. Each adjudication process that the authors propose requires a different case management process and different amounts of judicial, staff, and facility resources.

Reimagining Courts should spark much-needed debate. This book will be of significant interest to lawyers, judges, and professionals in the court system as well as to scholars in public administration and political science.

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Excerpt

Read the Overview (pdf).

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Reviews

"The authors propose a series of linked reforms leading toward more, and more intelligent, use of administrative bodies and innovations like drug courts. Flango and Clarke are associated with the National Center for State Courts, and their suggestions are informed by the research done by that respected organization.... The proposals are intriguing and well thought out; many extend experiments currently being tried. Summing Up: Recommended."
Choice

"[A]n important book discussing needed reforms in our American judicial system, written by two individuals who have been privy to the inner workings of state court systems for a number of years.... The crux and most important part of the book is the problem-solving process and the implications thereof.... All in all, Flango and Clarke present a thought-provoking compilation of ideas for court reform."
Judicature

"I agree with Flango and Clarke that courts have been too reticent to rethink what they do and how they do it. Many of the changes they are suggesting can be done internally by the judges and administrative leaders and through negotiations with the Bar. Some require changes in law or state rules, but they all are achievable by those who adopt Flango and Clarke’s vision or a variation of it. Flango and Clarke wisely cite courts that already have adopted and successfully implemented each of their suggestions. The gap between Flango and Clarke’s vision and the cited cutting-edge courts is that no court has implemented all of the ideas. The authors know it will be hard for many courts to adopt some of the ideas soon and maybe even after many years. That realization does not undermine the value of putting the ideas out there so they can be adopted and proven by courts that see their merits."
Thinking Out Loud

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Contents

List of Figures and Tables

Acknowledgments

Overview

  Vision of the New Court Process
  Courts as though Litigants Mattered
  The Court Response
  Financial Problems Remedies
  Plan of This Book


Part I. Aligning Image with Reality
1. Why Courts Need to Be Redesigned

  The Challenge: Burgeoning Caseloads Countertrends
  Financial Crisis: Engine for Change

2. What Courts Actually Do
  Courts Settle Traffic Cases
  Criminal Cases
  Civil Cases


Part II. Triage and the Four Case-Processing Tracks
3. Triage: Separating Cases by Processing Required

  The Need for Triage
  Four Adjudicatory Processes
  The Adversary Process and Courts Are Intertwined
  Routine Cases: The Dispositional Process
  The Problem-Solving Process
  Triage by Issue
  Triage and Processing Tracks


Appendix to Chapter 3. Functional Equivalents to Triage: Historical Strategies

4. The Adversary Process
  The Adversary Process Should Be Reserved for Trials
  Decreasing Trials
  Triage: Trial Worthiness
  Role of the Judge: Umpire
  Court Staff
  Facilities
  Court Performance
  Proposed Remedies


Appendix to Chapter 4. The Decreasing Number of Jury and Bench Trials

5. The Dispositional Process
  Criminal Processing
  Civil Cases
  Triage
  Role of the Judge: Adjudicator
  Court Staff
  Facilities
  Court Performance
  Implications


6. The Administrative Process
  Purpose
  Caseload
  Triage
  Role of the Judge: Administrator
  Alternatives


Appendix to Chapter 6. Substituting Court Jurisdiction with Administrative Jurisdiction: An Example

7. The Problem-Solving Process
  Specialized Problem-Solving Courts
  Unified Family Courts
  Workload
  Role of the Judge: Problem Solver
  Court Staff
  Facilities
  Triage
  Can Specialized Problem-Solving Courts Be Reconciled with Court Reform?
  Are Triage and Coordination the Answer?


8. Implications of the Problem-Solving Approach for Court Reform
  Two Separate Processes: The Legal Model and the Medical Model
  Medical Model in Corrections
  Medical Model versus Legal Model in Courts
  Treatment Focus
  Why the Two Processes Must Be Kept Separate
  Mainstreaming Problem-Solving Principles
  Is Treatment a Court Responsibility?


Part III. Making the Reimagined Court a Reality
9. Case-Triage Strategies in Action

  Reducing Jurisdiction
  Increasing Litigant Choice
  Streamlining Processes
  Optimizing Scarce Resources
  Implications for Judicial and Court Staff Selection, Education, and Training
  Putting It All Together


10. Implementing the Vision of a Modern Court
  The Worldview of the Modern Court
  Suggestions for Reform
  Barriers to Implementation
  Getting There from Here


Notes
Bibliography
Index

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About the Author(s)

Victor E. Flango has recently retired as Executive Director, Program Resource Development at the National Center for State Courts.

Thomas M. Clarke is Vice President for Research and Technology at the National Center for State Courts.

Subject Categories

Law and Criminology
Political Science and Public Policy

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