Civil Justice Reform in Florida Includes Successes and Lessons Learned for Case Management Teams

June 14, 2019

The National Center for States Courts (NCSC) has released the first in a series of evaluations of civil justice reform demonstration pilot projects around the country: Civil Justice Initiative, Evaluation of the Civil Justice Initiative Pilot Project (CJIPP), Implemented by the Eleventh Judicial Circuit Court of FloridaThe pilot focused on implementing civil case management teams (CCMTs)—an innovative court staffing model that delegates case management responsibilities across a team of judges and staff. The evaluation found that cases assigned to CCMTs had higher closure rates and faster disposition time than cases operating under the standard case management approach.

CJIPP, located in Miami-Dade County, was selected as a pilot demonstration site focused on Recommendation 7 by the Conference of Chief Justices: that Courts should develop CCMTs consisting of a responsible judge supported by appropriately trained staff. The goal is to streamline civil case processing by delegating certain tasks to specially trained professional staff so that judges can focus their attention on making decisions that “require their unique authority, expertise and discretion.” In addition to evaluating the CJIPP project, NCSC also developed a Guide to Building Civil Case Management Teams as part of the implementation project to provide further guidance to courts so they can plan and carry out a successful transition to the CCMT model. 

The newly released CJIPP evaluation adds further support for the use of the CCMT model and lessons for courts considering this approach. While the evaluation found that both contested and uncontested cases resolved earlier under the CCMT model, the evaluation also found a higher rate of scheduled hearings, conferences, and motions on average. The evaluation also suggested courts implementing the CCMT model should engage in advanced planning and a robust and fully-integrated technology platform to ensure a smooth transition from traditional case management to the CCMT model. 

To learn more about the CCMT model and to hear from the judges and case manager experts on the CJIPP team, attend the final webinar in our Civil Justice Initiative (CJI) Implementation Project series on July 11, 2019, from 2:00 to 3:15 pm ET. The webinar, titled It’s All About Teamwork: Creating Effective Civil Case Management Teams,” will feature Judge Jennifer Bailey, Judge Thomas Rebull, and civil case manager Yanitza Madrigal and will focus on how the court organized the CJIPP teams, the roles and responsibilities of team members, and the training and business practices implemented by the court. The presenters will also share lessons learned from the challenges they encountered during implementation.  

Register here for the webinar.

The demonstration pilot projects like this one in Florida are a key component of the CJI Implementation Plan, a three-year project partnership between IAALS and NCSC in support of national civil justice reform. In July 2016, the Conference of Chief Justices (CCJ) and Conference of State Court Administrators (COSCA) approved a Resolution endorsing 13 recommendations that are designed to transform the civil justice system in our state courts to meet the challenges of contemporary civil caseloads and the needs of those who come to the courts for resolution of their disputes. 

Following this endorsement, IAALS and NCSC launched the CJI Implementation Plan to support implementation of the recommendations—by developing tools, providing education and technical assistance, evaluating demonstration projects, and hosting regional summits for state action teams. The CJI Implementation Plan includes funding for three pilot projects whose results will be used to provide valuable lessons about how change can happen. NCSC has worked with the demonstration sites to document the implementation process and then evaluate the reforms. The two other pilots are located in Illinois’ McHenry County 22nd Judicial Court and Georgia’s Fulton County Magistrate Court. We look forward to NCSC’s evaluation of these pilot projects as well, and the additional insights and lessons for reform they are sure to include.