Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2021, $998,302)
The North Dakota Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) proposes a project designed to uncover the root causes that lead to delay and observed inconsistencies in local case management and docketing practices to identify corresponding workable solutions tailored to each problem. Four of North Dakota’s eight judicial districts have agreed to participate in the proposed project. The four judicial districts include 25 of the 53 counties, accounting for two-thirds of the states’ population. Moreover, these counties provide the opportunity to advance OJP Policy Priorities in promoting access to justice and civil rights in both rural areas and areas of persistent poverty.
Variations in local practice and policy may contribute to substantive differences in effective case management. The project design and objectives will support court efforts to reduce delay by addressing inconsistencies in local case management and scheduling practices, while working to enhance procedural justice in varying court environments. Based on best practices and administrative and qualitative data analysis, promising strategies for reducing delay and improving procedural justice and perceptions of fairness will be identified. Strategies will be piloted in the participating courts, their implementation documented, and recommendations identified for other courts in the state and across the country. By making criminal case processing more effective and accessible for all people in North Dakota, improvements in access to justice for persons in rural and persistent poverty communities and for persons with behavioral health needs can occur, furthering civil rights inherent to the concept of equal justice under the law.
Specifically, AOC will contract with consultants through the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) to (1) engage stakeholders, (2) analyze data and identify drivers, (3) develop innovative or research-based responses, (4) implement innovative responses, and (5) measure outcomes. A final report will be completed by NCSC and will document all site visits for stakeholder committee meetings (Task 1); the preliminary data collection methods and results (Task 2); the implementation and data collection plans for each pilot (Task 3); and pilot implementation and technical assistance (Task 4). Baseline and final results for pilot processes and outcomes will be reported (Tasks 4, 5) with practical implications for sustainability and replicability within and beyond North Dakota courts. Final recommendations will be provided to pilot courts, AOC, and extended to a national perspective based on the data-driven findings.