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Mosaic of Institutional Culture and Performance: Trial Courts as Organizations

NCJ Number
Date Published
November 2005
263 pages
This study identified and distinguished cultural orientations in 12 felony criminal trial courts in California, Florida, and Minnesota.
The analytical framework was designed to determine the basic cultural orientations judges and court administrators have toward how they do their work. This research is significant because variation in court culture has been shown to be a critical component in how courts implement case management, adapt to changing environmental conditions, and exercise court leadership. The study measured how cultural values are exhibited by examining practitioners' views toward multiple areas of work, including case management, judicial-staff relations, change management, courthouse leadership, and internal organization. Four cultural orientations were identified: "communal," which emphasizes flexibility and creativity, with individual judges and court staff able to modify the application of court rules according to variable circumstances; "networked," which emphasizes judicial consensus; "autonomous," which emphasizes self-management, considerable judicial discretion, and limited court wide goals and policies; and "hierarchical," which emphasizes clear rules, structured division of labor, and efficiency. In pursuing the fundamental court values of timeliness, access, fairness, and managerial effectiveness, a common preference among all the courts was for a cultural "mosaic," which would apply the cultural orientation appropriate for the particular work to be done. The hierarchical culture was preferred for case management and change management; a networked orientation was desired in judge-staff relations and internal organization; and a communal culture was favored in courthouse leadership. An autonomous cultural orientation, on the other hand, was not deemed appropriate for any of the court's work areas. 39 tables, appended supplementary tables, and 102 references

Date Published: November 1, 2005