To involve all circuit and district court judges in the coordination and adjudication of family court cases, and create a one-family, one-judge case flow environment.
Circuit and district court judges endorse a one-family, one-judge case flow assignment system. The entire bench will participate, instead of diverting these matters to a family court judge or division. It is easy to involve the entire bench, since the court uses an individual calendar system to assign cases.
Excluding juvenile matters, cases are randomly assigned at filing. In short, each circuit court judge receives an equal proportion of the entire case load and manages his/her share from filing to closing. The assignment system is ideal because one judge is familiar with a case from start to finish. However, to implement our concept, we need to modify assignment practices to identify and coordinate family matters before cases are assigned to a judge., We also need judicial support to offset the increased juvenile workload in circuit court, and to ensure trial certainty.
To initiate this concept, we need: 1) .6 FTE COSIII family case and multi-agency coordinator; 2) .25 FTE pro tem judge to address the workload impact and to ensure trial certainty; and 3) .25 FTE electronic recorder to staff the pro tem judge.
FAMILY CASE and MULTI-AGENCY COORDINATION:
Nationally, there is considerable debate over the type of family cases to assign to one judge., Initially, we will link matters that involve juvenile delinquency and dependency, termination of parental rights, dissolution, support, and criminal. These cases originate from different sources, and they enter the court system throughout the family’s life. Families interact with and receive services from the juvenile department, Children’s Services Division, support enforcement, mental health, district attorney, corrections and the local bar. A one-family, one-judge model is new to these agencies. For the concept to be successful, they must be involved in the court’s attempt to coordinate family events.
Three case flow issues require careful attention. Staff must:
- review pending case loads and reassign family matters before one judge;
- monitor daily filings, identify and coordinate family cases and assign them to one judges; and
- ensure an equitable balance of all assigned cases among judges.
In addition to the case flow issues, the coordinator must establish an active network with service agencies and the bar. Research confirms that outside agencies and the bar can provide valuable family related information to the court. With an active network, it becomes easier to assign new cases at filing. Coordinated involvement, initiated by the court, also instills collaboration between the agencies and bar, in an effort to address family needs.
Once we establish case flow procedures and communication channels, we will expand the program by coordinating domestic violence cases between circuit and district court. These matters include person-to-person crimes, abuse prevention and stalking orders. We may also create an expedited domestic violence calendar. These changes also require new procedures and expanded networks for this effort to be successful.
The coordinator is supervised by the court administrator. The position requires extensive case flow knowledge, the ability to network with multiple agencies, and an understanding of services that affect the family.
PRO TEM JUDGE/ELECTRONIC RECORDER:
The Tongue Committee recognized the need for increased judicial resources in Deschutes County. Circuit court exceeds the statewide average of cases tried per judge, and the court has experienced rapid growth in new case filings. Even though Deschutes County has dedicated pro tem funds, they are far shy of the amount needed to adequately address existing needs. It would be too risky to assume this project without judicial support, especially in light of the impact associated with this change, the current backlog in circuit and district court, and high circuit court trial rates. Presently, the county funds a juvenile court referee. The referee adjudicates roughly 350 delinquent and dependent cases annually. When this program starts, we plan to transfer a number of these unresolved matters to circuit court. In addition, the referee won’t receive new delinquent and dependency cases if other family related matters are pending. This increases the circuit court workload and these matters require priority. As we link juvenile matters with related family matters and set trials, we must have the resources to hear these cases on the first setting, so families won’t linger in the system.
To address family matters early on, we need an on-call, local, pro tem judge to ensure trial certainty. Due to the volume of pending court cases, we set multiple matters on the same day. Frequently, we prioritize cases and pick one for trial, while we reset the others. It would be impractical and unfair to continually reset non-family related matters because we started this program. If the court doesn’t have the capability to resolve matters unrelated to the family, backlogs will row and new pressure will be placed on the system. With a pro tem judge, non-family related matters may also proceed in an expeditious manner, while the family still receives priority.
The presiding judge and court administrator approve and coordinate pro tem judge appointments. Unfortunately, adequate courtroom space is not available for the pro tem judge. To use these resources effectively, we must develop flexible scheduling practices to take advantage of unoccupied jury rooms, a video hearing room and courtrooms.
|(January 1, 1994 – June 30, 1995)|
|.5 FTE COSIII at step 2||$21,114|
|Pro tem (17.5 wks. / no travel)||$27,859|
|Electronic recorder for pro tem at step 2||$8,017|
|Capital: desk, PC, chair, S&S||$8,010|