As late as the 1930s, the federal court system was in administrative disarray. District (trial) judges were geographically dispersed and unaccountable to any centralized body. There were no meaningful statistics on judicial workload or output. Even chief judges rarely communicated or shared ideas among each other. It took two decades of tireless work from Chief Justices William Howard Taft and Charles Evans Hughes to build a centralized bureaucratic system and create a national culture of accountability.
Nearly a century later, some state courts are apparently still facing the same challenges. A new study of the Louisville, Kentucky courts reveals a “chaotic” system characterized by unequal judicial workloads, pervasive delay, and limited judicial accountability. In particular, the study noted that “there is a ‘local legal culture’ in Jefferson County where cases are not expected to be resolved quickly.”
“This system does not work well,” the study said.
There are, according to the study, too many continuances for cases, significant down-time for judges and “probably many erroneously issues unnecessary bench warrants.”
Local judges are accountable to nobody with no monitoring or tracking of their work habits and how they are handling their cases, according to the study.
Many of these findings are not new.
Several local judges have been quick to cite flaws in the study, and there may well be reasons for critiquing certain findings. But the overall conclusions are pretty damning, and the state judiciary is taking notice. The full study is at the link above.