Judicial time management

By Mr Justice Francesco Depasquale LL.D. LL.M. (IMLI) – The Honourable Mr Justice, Superior Courts, Valletta, Malta

The European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice (CEPEJ), set up 20 years ago to assist, amongst other things, in improving the functioning of judicial systems, has been at the forefront in the development of a vast array of reports and guidelines which have been welcomed and embraced by many Courts, and have proven to be of great use to better manage the ever-increasing workload of the Courts.

In June 2021, notwithstanding the serious setbacks caused by the pandemic. The Plenary of the CEPEJ adopted a document drawn up by the Working Group on Judicial Time Management, also known as SATURN, entitled Handbook on Court Dashboards.
The Handbook is designed to assist all stakeholders in the Court systems to design Management Dashboards intended to track, analyse and display data on the performance levels of the various Courts.
It provides practical suggestions and recommendations on how to design and implement efficient and effective management dashboards, allowing the readers to add or modify any of the recommendations to meet the unique needs and characteristics of their particular Court system.
To better assist the users, the Handbook addresses three aspects of the process required to design an efficient and effective dashboard:

  • The content to be included in the dashboard
  • The manner in which such content is to be displayed
  • The technical requirements necessary to complete the process

Furthermore, the Handbook provides a list of concise and practical guidelines for Courts, seeking to develop such a system of Court Management Dashboards, giving examples of dashboards already on operation by Courts.
The Management Dashboards consist of visual representations of data in the form of tables, charts and other colour coded scales, designed to help in the understanding, managing and improving the operation and performance of the Court by focusing on certain Key Performance Indicators (KPI). These KPI’s consist of data items which represent the result of a performance measurement, and are usually expressed in a numerical figure, which provides information on the quantity, and in a unit of measurement, which represents the object being tested.
KPI’s are an integral part of the overall assessment of the degree to which the performance of the organization fulfils its goals and strategic plan, since measuring and improving performance in Courts affects various aspects of its system, with special emphasis on administration of justice, access to justice and the right to a fair trial within a reasonable time.
Though there exist several performance indicators which may be developed in an advanced and well-designed case management system, the Handbook highlights six KPI’s which are simple to implement and which coincide with other guidelines published by CEPEJ. There are the following:

  • General case counts – number of incoming, resolved and pending cases
  • Backlog analysis – number of cases by age, care type and status of case
  • Duration of proceedings – number of days between filing of case and its finalization
  • Clearance rate – percentage evaluation of the number of incoming cases and the resolved cases.
  • Disposition Time – calculation of number of pending cases at end of the year with number of cases resolved in that year
  • Manner of Disposition – classification of the different manners in which the case was finalized

Such KPI’s are only a starting point for the development of any Management Dashboard, however they are designed to satisfy the consistence with performance goals, clean-cut definitions, reflection of time trends, correlation with internal and external changes in the Courts and simplicity of data collection and sustainability.
The Handbook, which is available on the CEPEJ website, also provides various tools, guidelines and examples in the design and operation of such Management Dashboards, to make them both user-friendly as well as to enable easily available data to be readable and contains ample references to well-designed dashboards currently already in operation on a National, Court and Judge level amongst some Member States.
We hope this document may be of interest to all your members.

CEPEJ Dashboard for courts from Council of Europe OP Services on Vimeo.