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Trial Courts as Organizations

Trial Courts as Organizations

Brian J. Ostrom
Charles W. Ostrom
Roger A. Hanson
Matthew Kleiman
Copyright Date: 2007
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 204
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  • Book Info
    Trial Courts as Organizations
    Book Description:

    Court administrators and judges have long acknowledged that culture plays an important role in the function of trial courts. Trial Courts as Organizations provides a comprehensive framework for understanding this organizational culture, along with a set of steps and tools to assess and measure the current and preferred culture.

    The authors examine how courts operate, what characteristics they may display, and how they function as a unit to preserve judicial independence, strengthen organizational leadership, and influence court performance. They identify four different types of institutional cultures using a systematic analysis of alternative values on how work is done. Each culture is shown to have its own strengths and weaknesses in achieving values, such as timely case resolution, access to court services, and procedural justice. Accordingly, the authors find judges and administrators prefer a definite pattern of different cultures, called a "mosaic," to guide how their courts operate in the future.

    eISBN: 978-1-59213-632-2
    Subjects: Law, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface and Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-x)
    Brian J. Ostrom, Charles W. Ostrom Jr., Roger A. Hanson and Matthew Kleiman
  4. 1 Organizational Culture in American Trial Courts
    (pp. 1-21)

    Courts rightly proclaim the virtues of institutional independence as a necessary condition for the achievement and maintenance of civil society’s fundamental precepts, such as the rule of law, individual rights, and impartial resolution of disputes. Without questioning the critical nature of judicial independence, the American system of checks and balances imposes some restraint on each branch of government. The Conference of State Court Administrators has expressed, in a forceful and clear statement, what the check on courts entails:

    The administration of justice should reside with the courts, both as a constitutional matter—judicial administration is inherent in the courts’ adjudicative...

  5. 2 A Framework for Court Culture
    (pp. 22-45)

    Court culture is conceived as the beliefs and behaviors shaping “the way things get done” by the individuals—judges and court administrators—who have the responsibility to ensure cases are resolved fairly and expeditiously. Quinn (1988, p. 66), a leader in the study of organizational culture, offers a concise definition:

    When we think of the manifestation of values in organizations, it is their cultures we are thinking of. Simply put, culture is the set of values and assumptions that underlie the statement, “This is how we do things around here.” Culture at the organizational level, like information processing at the...

  6. 3 Measuring Court Culture
    (pp. 46-67)

    Culture, a complex multifaceted concept, has achieved a position of prominence as a leading explanation for how organizations perform. Yet, despite the importance attached to culture, previous research in the area of trial courts has not developed a method for describing the similarities and differences in cultural orientations. As a result, discussions about the complexities and multiple facets of court culture are more descriptive than analytic. Practitioners and researchers alike might assert that a court’s culture is manifested in particular ways and accounts for its performance in specific ways, but those assertions rest more on acute observations than on systematic...

  7. 4 Elaborating the Four Cultures
    (pp. 68-89)

    In the previous and subsequent chapters,quantitativedata are used to measure and diagnose culture in the former and assess the impact of culture on performance in the latter. This chapter takes aqualitativeapproach through extensive and structured conversations with judges, senior court administrators, and attorneys during twenty-three on-site visits to the twelve courts. Each site was visited by at least two members of the research team. A detailed list of over 150 judges, administrators, prosecutors, and defense attorneys who participated in the interview process is found in Appendix 4-1.

    A battery of questions was used in interviews of...

  8. 5 Consequences of Court Culture
    (pp. 90-109)

    The profound significance of culture lies in its consequences. According to the data from the courts in this study, culture varies both among and within judicial bodies: No one culture dominates all work areas and there is no dominant cultural mosaic across the twelve courts. A logical question arises: Does this cultural variation have differential performance consequences? Public management experts contend that, in general, culture shapes institutional performance. For example, DiIulio (1989, p. 127) notes:

    Although a disputatious lot, public management scholars tend to agree strongly (if implicitly) on one thing: public management matters. They share a belief (“faith” might...

  9. 6 Preferences for Court Culture
    (pp. 110-128)

    Courts are regarded as conservative bodies wedded to precedent, both in substantive and procedural law. With very limited research and development capacities, they lack the wherewithal to keep up with innovations and emerging trends, in contrast to other organizations that continually monitor the outside world to remain vibrant and vital. If the conventional wisdom is true, courts might be stuck in the cultural tradition in which they find themselves, with little thought given to how practices might be improved. However, as some judges and court administrators have demonstrated, they are not as bound to the status quo as the classic...

  10. 7 Conclusions and Implications
    (pp. 129-150)

    We summarize our principal finding—with apologies to Leo Tolstoy and a slight reworking of the famous first line fromAnna Karenina: “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way” as an epigraph to this chapter. Jared Diamond initially uses the quotation to illustrate why so few wild animals have been successfully domesticated throughout history—for a species to be domesticated, a great number of factors have to be just right. Success in domestication comes not from a particular positive characteristic of the species, but by avoiding any number of possible negative factors. Diamond...

  11. Appendices
    (pp. 151-176)
  12. Notes
    (pp. 177-184)
  13. References
    (pp. 185-190)
  14. Index
    (pp. 191-194)