National Center for State Courts Releases Three Tools to Help Courts Improve Appearance Rates

court appearance rates Court of Law Trial: Female Judge and and Jury Sit, Start of a Civil Case Hearing. Proceedings in Motion to Rule Out a Sentence.

The National Center for State Courts (NCSC) has released three new resources to help judges and court leaders identify and address barriers that lead to missed court hearings, which can have significant negative consequences on courts, opposing parties, and those who miss their hearings.

To dig deep into the causes of missed appearances, the NCSC’s resources are focused on three areas: (1) education for judges and court leaders on barriers for court users, (2) an evaluation of current court policies and practices related to appearance rates, and (3) establishing and/or improving electronic reminders.

“Understanding why people miss court appointments will help courts implement policies, procedures, and resources to ensure more people show up,” NCSC Court Management Consultant Andy Wirkus in a press release.

Training for judges and court leaders

This online training module, which the NCSC developed with funding from the Pew Charitable Trusts, is aimed at judges and court leaders who want to learn what causes people to miss their hearings and gain tools to address these issues, which the goal of improving appearance rates.

The curriculum uses video presentations, exercises, and an online self-diagnostic tool to explore the “real challenges court users face that can lead to missed appearances and provides research and best practices that can combat these barriers, including improving communication with court users, removing practical barriers to access, and modifying policies and procedures to encourage attendance,” according to the NCSC.

Diagnosing Court policies and practices

The NCSC’s Appearance Rate Report Card (ARRC) is an online diagnostic tool that allows court users to assess their policies and practices in the areas of communication, access, and policies.

The AARC tool asks courts to answer questions about their current practices, policies, and procedures, and provides “customized feedback” on how these can be adapted to improve court appearance rates.

Courts receive customized scores, explanations for these scores, and resources to support improvements in each area, all in an “easy-to-understand report card format,” the NCSC says.

Improving electronic reminders

Finally, the NCSC has developed an eReminders Toolkit to assist courts in implementing or improving a text, email, or phone reminder system.

The guide provides instructions for setting up an eReminders system, monitoring and evaluating the system, and legal implications such as user privacy, data security, and best practices for messaging.

Some states that have already implemented text reminders for court, such as New York and Arizona, have reported that the eReminders have significantly reduced failures to appear.

“Courts should spend time with these tools to learn about barriers to appear and to identify specific ways their jurisdiction can improve appearance rates,” said Wirkus. “These efforts will aid the communities courts serve and can also reduce inefficiencies that cause administrative burdens for court staff.”

Visit the NCSC website to learn more about these tools.

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