In November 2016, the Circuit Civil Division of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit Court of Florida implemented the Civil Justice Initiative Pilot Project (CJIPP) to test the impact of Civil Case Management Teams (CCMTs) on civil case processing. CCMTs were envisioned as an essential component of civil justice reform in the report and recommendations of the CCJ Civil Justice Improvements Committee. With SJI support, the CJIPP created four CCMTs, each consisting of a judge, a case manager, a judicial assistant, and a bailiff. The CCMTs developed a standardized case management process to streamline administrative tasks, triage cases into appropriate case management pathways, and monitor case progress. The remaining 21 judges in the Circuit Civil Division continued to manage civil caseloads under traditional case processing practices and staffing assignments, providing a baseline for comparison.
To assess the impact of CJIPP, the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) conducted an outcome evaluation that compared the outcomes of cases assigned to the CJIPP teams with those assigned to the non-CJIPP judges (baseline). The NCSC found that CJIPP cases closed at a significantly higher rate, and approximately five months earlier on average than baseline cases. Shortly after the initial launch of the pilot program, the CJIPP cases experienced a temporary increase in the number of court hearings and case management conferences as lawyers in the CJIPP cases requested modifications to case management orders, including continuances or extensions of time to complete litigation tasks; however, the frequency of these case events returned to normal levels within three months. In addition to shorter timeframes and increased case activity, the CJIPP cases also showed a smaller ratio between the number of motions filed and the number of orders entered, suggesting that CJIPP judges were more responsive than baseline judges in deciding motions in a timely manner, thus preventing unnecessary costs and delay for litigants.
The NCSC evaluation also conducted focus groups and surveyed attorneys in CJIPP cases to solicit their perceptions about the pilot program. Attorneys were positive overall about the case management practices introduced through CJIPP, with more than half of attorneys surveyed reporting that CJIPP judges set clear expectations and enforced case deadlines. During focus groups, several attorneys also commented that the CJIPP judges’ level of oversight and willingness to enforce case management orders tended to reward competence and professionalism and to discourage unnecessary gamesmanship in litigation. CJIPP judges also reported that the CCMT model removed some of the administrative burden associated with civil case management, giving them more time to review case details before hearings or deciding motions. CJIPP judges also noted that attorneys seemed to respond positively to the greater attention from judges, moving their cases sooner than usual.
The NCSC evaluation report also describes challenges that the Court experienced during the CJIPP implementation as well as suggestions for other courts planning to implement CCMTs.