Pierce County, Washington, reduced its average time from filing to disposition in criminal cases to under 90 days during the 1985-1990 period when felony case filings increased by 53 percent and drug felony cases rose by 500 percent.
The change occurred when Pierce County Superior Court adopted a system known as differential case management (DCM). The court recognized that successful criminal case management needed more than just speedy case disposition. Pierce County hired its first court administrator in 1986, added two new judicial departments, and opened five new courtrooms. These additional resources provided an opportunity to identify and address problems associated with criminal case processing. In addition, because the Sheriff's Department found it difficult to transport defendants to the various courtrooms, a plan was developed to add a second criminal court and to reduce the number of cases assigned to individual departments for sentencing. With the assistance of Washington State's Office of the Administrator for the Courts, Pierce County applied for Federal grant funding to evaluate the use of DCM in managing criminal cases. The DCM concept assumes that all cases will not be treated equally and that cases will be segregated into categories with relevant goals and expectations for each category. After some experience with the DCM program, both prosecutors and public defenders have endorsed the results. The Pierce County court administrator uses a computerized system to prepare daily calendars for the two criminal courts and provide judges with a list of scheduled cases and appropriate case information. Because of its success in criminal case management, the DCM concept is being considered for application to civil case management.
1206 S Quince Street
Mail Stop EZ-11, Olympia, WA 98504, United States
United States of America