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Court Operations and Case Management - Annual Report 2016

The Judiciary is committed to innovative court management and administration that effectively addresses the changing needs of the bar, judges and court staff, and the public.

Next Generation Case Management

By the end of 2016, seven district and bankruptcy courts and two courts of appeals were using the Next Generation CM/ECF, the Judiciary’s upgraded Case Management/Electronic Case Files System. The system allows Judiciary and public users to provide a single login and password across courts and enables court staff to consolidate different views of case data in a single interface. Judges and chambers staff can gather materials relevant to pending motions or other matters automatically. In 2016, the CM/ECF environment, tools, and infrastructure were upgraded to improve reliability and performance. Additional courts were working with Administrative Office (AO) staff to prepare for implementation. The experiences of the early-adopter courts will influence the implementation plan for national deployment.

Bankruptcy eNoticing

Debtor Electronic Bankruptcy Noticing (DeBN) grew 22 percent in fiscal year (FY) 2016.  Fifty-one courts currently use the service to notify debtors electronically, significantly reducing costs.  With DeBN, debtors receive court-generated bankruptcy notices and orders by email through the Bankruptcy Noticing Center. While primarily established as a noticing improvement for debtors, DeBN also reduces noticing costs for the Judiciary by up to 90 percent over the life of a bankruptcy case.

Targeted Support for Congested Courts

The Judicial Conference’s Court Administration and Case Management (CACM) Committee is working to develop measures, based on Civil Justice Reform Act statistics and civil case disposition times, to identify district courts with lengthy case disposition times.

For two years, the CACM Committee has worked with the Federal Judicial Center (FJC) to distribute to the courts individualized civil case management “dashboards,” which provide detailed information about a court’s civil docket. The dashboard allows a court to see at-a-glance the types of cases that made up its civil caseload for the previous three years and how quickly it disposed of each type of case relative to the national average. The courts responded positively to the dashboards, which will be provided annually.

A multi-year study by the FJC, A Study of Civil Case Disposition Times in U.S. District Courts, describes practices that seem to drive differences in case disposition times among courts. The FJC study found that courts where congestion is not a problem typically have sufficient judicial resources to operate at a pace that prevents significant backlogs and a court culture that prioritizes case management.

New Juror Kiosks Tested

In 2016, the AO completed a pilot program to test juror kiosks in four district courts representing a variety of court sizes and juror practices. Placed in jury assembly rooms, the kiosks reduce work for jury administrators by automating juror check-in and check-out.  They can elicit missing juror data and administer exit surveys.  The kiosks also can be used to collect a juror’s email address, phone number, and other relevant information.  Most of the juror kiosk software’s features can be customized to meet an individual court’s local needs. In the next phase of the initiative, nine more district courts will receive kiosks.

Automated Juror Notifications

The AO in 2016 continued to help courts transition to a new jury interactive voice response (IVR) system. By December, 92 of the 94 district courts were using the system, which makes it possible to send jurors automated calls, emails, and text messages reminding them of their reporting dates, revised reporting times, or cancellations. Jurors also can call into the IVR to confirm instructions or to hear status updates. The IVR saves court staff time by enabling courts to send communications in bulk to reporting pools of jurors. It also reduces the number of calls court staff must handle that pertain to frequently asked questions.

Prisoner eFiling Initiative

The AO is working with the Federal Bureau of Prisons on a pilot program for prisoner eFiling.  At the state level, similar programs have saved court and prison staff time and reduced postage costs.  Approved by the Judicial Conference in 2016, the pilot program will place stand-alone kiosks in select federal prisons, where inmates can scan and electronically transmit documents to a district court’s dedicated email address. Court staff will then docket the filing in the CM/ECF.  For security reasons, prisoner eFiling will allow inmates only to transmit documents to the court, not to view court documents or receive court communications. Based on the experience of the courts in the pilot, the AO will consider whether to expand the program to all federal courts that wish to participate.

Court Interpreting Events

In FY 2016, U.S. district courts used interpreters in 265,888 court proceedings, compared with 280,254 proceedings in the prior fiscal year. Overall, 120 different languages were used in court proceedings during 2016. Spanish remains the most frequently used language for interpreters in the courts, accounting for 96 percent of all reported interpreting events. The top 10 languages that required interpreting in the federal courts were Spanish (254,736), Mandarin (1,640), Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian (952), Russian (950), Portuguese (835), Arabic (815), Cantonese (538), Korean (403), Vietnamese (360), and Romanian (340).

Telephone Interpreting

An interpreter provides language services remotely during a short court proceeding.

An interpreter provides language services remotely during a short court proceeding.

The Telephone Interpreting Program (TIP) is a resource available to the courts that provides remote interpretation during short court proceedings where certified or otherwise qualified interpreters are not locally available. In fiscal year 2016, 102 locations in 57 districts received telephone interpreting services. TIP is cost-effective because it reduces the need for an interpreter to travel to court locations and allows an interpreter to serve multiple proceedings and locations on the same day.
The Judiciary is currently testing new digital equipment that takes advantage of digital systems and offers better sound quality.

In fiscal year 2016, the total estimated savings from telephone interpreting was more than $1.9 million. Since fiscal year 2001, TIP has saved the Judiciary approximately $18.9 million and has been used to provide services in more than 51,000 court events.