Enhancing Caseflow Management to Ensure Effective Assistance of Counsel

Caseflow management is defined as the coordination of court processes to ensure court proceedings progress in a timely and efficient manner. This can sometimes result in courts’ feeling pressure to process cases quickly in order to clear a docket and avoid case delay. This pressure may also result in the scheduling of case events without consideration for whether a defense attorney has been assigned to the case, and if so, whether one has had time to sufficiently prepare for these events. In some instances, competing interests may emerge—those supporting prompt resolution of cases against those supporting effective assistance of counsel, which at times may slow down case proceedings. When these interests are not adequately addressed, a tension emerges for judges and court administrators: the right to counsel tension.

The proposed project seeks to explore this tension between ensuring the right to counsel and caseflow management, what causes it and what alleviates it, and what judges and court administrators can do both separately and as a team to ease it. To do this, the Justice Programs Office (JPO), a center in the School of Public Affairs at American University, in partnership with Right to Counsel (R2C) National Campaign consortium member the National Association for Court Management (NACM), proposes holding a day and a half long meeting with court practitioners to take a close look at court practices that may prevent, resolve, or mitigate this tension and develop strategies for their implementation. The meeting will be limited to 30 attendees to allow for focused and in-depth dialogue. Attendees will include subject-matter experts in the areas of right to counsel, caseflow management, and court governance and up to 10 judge-court administrator pairs. By inviting judge and court manager pairs, we will be able to explore specific, on-the-ground problems that exist in courtrooms across the country and develop practical solutions that can be replicated in other jurisdictions. At the conclusion of the meeting, staff members from JPO along with key subject-matter experts will generate a white paper to serve as a management document for courts, outlining the issue, summarizing the meeting, and sharing practical action items that judges and court administrators can implement.

Contact Information

Genevieve Citrin Ray, MPP
Senior Policy Advisor
Justice Programs Office, School of Public Affairs
American University
4400 Massachusetts Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20016-8159
Tel: (202) 885-2875