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Judicial KIT: Criminal Case Management - Backlog Reduction and Statistical Analysis

On Friday, January 28, 2022, the Caribbean Anti-Crime Program (CAC), funded by INL, conducted its 19th Judicial Keep-in-Touch (KIT) program on best practices in criminal case management. The program, hosted by the National Center for State Courts, implementer of CAC, focused on the impact of statistical analysis in reducing case backlogs and featured the notable success of Jamaica in using statistical analysis and case management standards.

Approximately 261 judges, magistrates and court staff attended the KIT session from 17 countries: Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, The Bahamas, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Montserrat, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, Suriname, Trinidad & Tobago, and the Virgin Islands. Attendees included Chief Justices and judges from the Caribbean Court of Justice. Dr. Denarto Dennis, Chief Statistician for the Supreme Court of Jamaica, conducted a presentation on factors that impact court backlog, as well as scientific approaches to improving case management.

Dr. Dennis provided a comparison of Criminal Case Flow Management Performance and Standards in the U.S., Canada, and Jamaica and elaborated on core elements of Effective Criminal Case Management (ECCM) methodology. He noted the five-year Strategic Plan of the Judiciary of Jamaica envisioned an ambitious benchmark of a 130% case clearance rate across all courts, meaning that the courts would dispose of 130 cases for every 100 cases filed.

The initiative ran from 2016 to 2021 in 13 Parish Courts and resulted in a 13 percentage point drop in case backlog rates. Several courts either achieved or surpassed expectations in 2021, by embracing sound case management principles germane to successful courts including: use of early court intervention; continuous monitoring of pre-trial schedules; scheduling case events in advance; and maintaining firm and credible trial dates. Overall, the KIT presentation emphasised that proper statistical analysis of factors such as case disposal, case clearance, trial and hearing date certainty, and case congestion rates, (see above question for what stat analysis means in this context) as well as clear performance standards, will allow courts to work towards reducing backlog of criminal cases and to eliminating systemic inefficiencies. This was NCSC’s third session on case management.

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