D.C. Courts:

Staffing Level Determination Could Be More Rigorous

GGD-99-162: Published: Aug 27, 1999. Publicly Released: Aug 27, 1999.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on personnel management in the District of Columbia (D.C.) courts, focusing on: (1) staffing and workload levels for the courts from 1989 through 1998; (2) how the courts evaluate the sufficiency of the levels of nonjudicial staff who work on processing and disposition of cases; and (3) a comparison of the D.C. courts' staffing methodology to other available methodologies.

GAO noted that: (1) overall staffing levels in the D.C. courts increased between 1989 and 1990, declined slightly with some fluctuations through 1997, and then decreased below the 1989 level in 1998; (2) cases available for disposition increased slightly during this time in the D.C. Superior Court, the largest part of the courts, while its backlog increased substantially; (3) the cases available for disposition, and the backlog, of the far smaller D.C. Court of Appeals increased steadily over this period; (4) in both courts, the mix of different types of cases has changed over this period; (5) District of Columbia court officials said that they consider caseload data, along with other data, in judging whether staffing levels are appropriate; (6) according to court officials, staffing decisions are made on a year-by-year basis and are made individually for each division of the Superior Court and Court of Appeals; (7) the courts' methodology does not provide a comprehensive review of what staffing levels should be because it does not consider the amount of staff time and resources that are needed for case processing; (8) caseload trends alone do not show whether a unit is overstaffed or understaffed because they do not account for how much time is needed to process differing types of cases or for productivity improvements; (9) methodologies that consider the amount of staff time and resources required to process different types of cases in determining the sufficiency of staffing levels do exist; and (10) the National Center for State Courts has devised a database system to determine staffing levels needed for a given workload, and the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts uses a database system to distribute resources among the federal courts.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The D.C. Courts contracted with Booz Allen Hamilton for a study of D.C. Courts staffing levels. This study began in August 2001. In June 2002, Booz Allen delivered a report to the D.C. Courts concerning staffing levels. In this report, Booz Allen described a weighted caseload model it had developed to determine court staffing requirements, and, based on the model, set forth FTEs required by each component of the Courts to manage workload.

    Recommendation: The District of Columbia courts should review the amount of time required to process different types of cases and analyze other elements of the courts' workload to determine what staffing levels are sufficient to process the D.C. courts' caseload.

    Agency Affected: United States Court of Appeals: District of Columbia Circuit

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The D.C. Courts contracted with Booz Allen Hamilton for a study of D.C. Courts staffing levels. This study began in August 2001. In June 2002, Booz Allen delivered a report to the D.C. Courts concerning staffing levels. In this report, Booz Allen described a weighted caseload model it had developed to determine court staffing requirements, and, based on the model, set forth FTEs required by each component of the Courts to manage workload.

    Recommendation: The District of Columbia courts should review the amount of time required to process different types of cases and analyze other elements of the courts' workload to determine what staffing levels are sufficient to process the D.C. courts' caseload.

    Agency Affected: United States Court of Appeals: District of Columbia Circuit

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The D.C. Courts consulted with the National Center for State Courts and the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts prior to commissioning a study of court staffing levels.

    Recommendation: Before planning or implementing such a review (including selecting components to be covered and balancing costs and benefits), the courts should consult with others who have used workload-based methodologies to evaluate court case processing staffing levels.

    Agency Affected: District of Columbia: Superior Court

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The D.C. Courts consulted with the National Center for State Courts and the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts prior to commissioning a study of court staffing levels.

    Recommendation: Before planning or implementing such a review (including selecting components to be covered and balancing costs and benefits), the courts should consult with others who have used workload-based methodologies to evaluate court case processing staffing levels.

    Agency Affected: United States Court of Appeals: District of Columbia Circuit

 

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