Massachusetts District Court Standing Order 4-04: Performance Goals for Criminal Case Management
In the District Court Department criminal case management in each division will be assessed from time to time in terms of overall time to disposition for the court's entire criminal caseload.
The performance goals will be as follows:
|Dispositions||Maximum Time Arraignment to Disposition|
|80-90%||Not more than four months|
|92-98%||Not more than six months|
|100%||Not more than twelve months|
In determining time to disposition under this Order, any time during which the defendant is legally unavailable to proceed with a case (e.g., time during which a defendant is in default or under civil commitment) will not be included.
Adopted effective November 1, 2004.
Commentary. The Criminal Time Standards in Joint Standing Order 3-04 provide two tracks for time-to-disposition and standards for intervals between court events. They are intended to provide specific time limits at the outset of each case to enable the judge to avoid delay as that case moves forward. Factors can emerge in any case that will determine whether these limits are unnecessarily long (e.g., "driving uninsured" cases normally should be disposed of quickly, despite being on Track B) or unreasonably brief (e.g., despite being on Track A, a minor case may require more than four months if the defendant demands a jury trial or if the case involves significant economic consequences). In any event, the Joint Criminal Time Standards provide that the track limit in any particular case may be extended for good cause stated on the record. The District Court criminal case management goals set forth in this Standing Order focus on each court's actual criminal dispositions, rather than governing cases as they proceed. They assess performance in terms of the court's entire criminal caseload, irrespective of tracks. This assessment approach avoids subdividing actual dispositions in terms of the penalties available by statute for each case, and thus simplifies the assessment process. This approach also appropriately accounts for cases that should be disposed of quickly, though they have been placed initially on the twelve-month track. This assessment approach also provides flexibility to reflect the different types of caseloads in the District Court divisions. A court with relatively few time-consuming criminal cases (generally rural or suburban courts with high proportions of motor vehicle offenses and other minor, non-violent crimes) may have a higher percentage of dispositions within the four-month limit and fewer within the six-to-twelve month limit. For case management assessment purposes the breakdown for such a court might be 90%, 98%, 100%. By comparison, an urban court with a higher proportion of crimes involving violence, drug charges and repeat offenders would be expected to have a higher percentage of dispositions in the six-to-twelve-month range and proportionately fewer within the four-month limit. Such a court may have a breakdown for case management assessment purposes of 80%, 92%, 100%. The point is that both courts will be within the performance goals. The assessment will take into account cases commenced in one court but disposed in a jury session that is provided in another court. It is important to note that when the case management of individual courts is assessed, the process will allow court personnel--judges, clerk-magistrates, chief probation officers, and staff--to review court practices and procedures and identify strengths and any weaknesses. Regional and Administrative Office personnel will be available to assist in appropriate circumstances. It is anticipated that this comprehensive, coordinated approach, which is an approach followed by the American Bar Association in its caseflow management recommendations, will provide a meaningful opportunity for all court components to effectively collaborate in the timely movement of criminal cases to disposition.