Importance of a Court Administrator
Importance of a Court Administrator
In the recent decades, there has been a substantial decline in the quality of rulings from the appellate courts in the US. With the increase in caseloads, the courts have been forced to hire more staff attorneys and law clerks to ease the pressure. Though the expansion of the appellate staff had a sound foundation, the said judges have used it as an excuse to become less accountable. This has diluted the outcomes from this judicial system. There has been a reduction in oral arguments and fully published opinions. However, the hiring of a court administrator is bound to resolve the court’s management issues making it more efficient.
Due to the reduction in funding the procedure of filing, a case in a state court is as prolonged as is receiving the verdict. The litigation process is further elongated if the aggrieved party decides to pursue a more favorable judgment in the appellate court system. The aggrieved sends a notice of appeal to the appellate court within 10 days after the final judgment. The appellate clerks, usually lawyers or law students working pro bono, review the appellant’s documentation. In an era where the majority cannot afford legal representation, and there is a decline in civic education, the majority of the self-representing appellants make minor mistakes that disqualify their case (Beazley, 2015). The courts have refused to extend the period of notice of appeal for such individuals. They claim compromising set standards is not an option as even the court themselves are victims to the new market realities. The community shares in the repercussions of a reduction in funding through a decline in quality of service. While everyone is keen to lodge criticisms at the judicial system, very few point fingers at the real culprits the funders. The budget cuts have led to increased pressure in an already struggling system.
The decision-making process in the court of appeal is relatively slower than its preceding junior courts. While one has a deadline of 30 days after the final judgment of the lower court to file an appeal, the ruling by the appellate court can take more than a year. In a bid to increase objectivity and a fair outcome for each involved party, the appellate judges consider each legal claim presented individually (Fish, 2015). The appellate judges have to read personally and research on the cases before considering the arguments. It follows that the current technological advances in documenting do not fasten tasks done by humans. In appellate judges, have four times more caseloads than they had in the 1950s, from 73 to 329 appeals. For more routine cases, the staff attorneys present the cases to the appellate judges in truncated form to hasten the process. Other major cases are also decided on similar briefs. As the caseloads increase, more responsibility is delegated to the staff attorneys. It follows that some rulings are given as summary judgment with no published opinion (Beazley, 2015). The majority of the appellants do not get a physical audience with the appellate judges as the courtesy of an oral argument is not accorded to every petitioner. Full-length opinions are only given to cases in the public eye that is extensive media coverage. Despite the effort at understanding the increased caseloads, the judges appear to avoid accountability for making mistakes while rushing through cases or delegating them. The summary judges usually bear no signature. As such, no particular judge can be held accountable for that particular decision. Ownership is the core of accountability. The justice system is thus diluted. A summary judgment cannot be used as a precedent for future rulings affecting the development of law.
As a solution to the current dilemma, a court administrator has been proposed. They will report directly to the chief judge of the particular jurisdiction. The work will be to concentrate on the administrative duties of the court leaving the judges to concentrate solely adjudicatory activities. The administrative duties range includes all the fiscal matters that is, payment of employees’ salaries or costs of maintenance of the courtroom. Once the court becomes more efficient the need for delegating duties to staff attorneys will reduce. As the court state administrators are not immune to the current market realities, they too will have to improvise with the limited resources. Owing the judicial innovation projects under them, they can help come up with different streams of revenue (Howard Jr., 2014). The administrator manages the judicial schedules and calendar ensuring that cases do not overlap efficient case management. This, in turn, helps in reducing the accumulating workload. The court administrators set the goals of the court in liaison with the judges. As the court’s performance will be measured, the judges will be motivated to hasten the judicial process without compromising standards. Not only will they formulate the management policies for the court, but they also ensure that they are implemented. They serve as a link between the executive, the legislature, the judiciary and the local government. The court administrator will also help maintain the judicial independence as any communication from the passes through him. Exercising direct control over the judiciary amounts to interference.
Beazley, M. (2015). Judgment writing in final and intermediate courts of appeal. Judicial Officers Bulletin, 27(9), 79.
Fish, P. G. (2015). The politics of federal judicial administration. Princeton University Press.
Howard Jr., J. W. (2014). Courts of appeals in the federal judicial system: A study of the Second, Fifth, and District of Columbia Circuits. Princeton University Press.