Judicial Reform: Project Pegasus and the Study of the Kansas Judiciary Jeffrey D. Jackson* - http://washburnlaw.edu/wlj/51-3/articles/jackson-jeffrey.pdf

See - http://washburnlaw.edu/wlj/51-3/articles/jackson-jeffrey.pdf

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F.  Recommendations Relating to District Court Functions and Procedures

1.  Recommendations

The Commission also made numerous recommendations relating to changes in district court functions and procedures.  In order to provide additional revenue sources for courts, the Commission recommended that courts make greater attempts to pursue and collect outstanding costs, fees, and fines
by: (1) developing standard collections methods and (2) training personnel on the collection process.

    The  Commission also recommended that the Supreme Court work on developing ways to ensure greater access to translator services, an important consideration as the number of persons for whom English is not their first language increases in the state.

    Furthermore, the Commission recommended that the Court review the case types that are entitled
to priority in district courts and look at time standards for their disposition.

The Commission also made two recommendations relating to uniformity of practice.  First, the Commission recommended that the Court do more to publicize and promote statewide development of best practices for the district courts to follow, including the adoption of performance measures.

  Second, the Commission recommended that the Court implement uniformity in court
processes and procedures.

  Finally, the Commission recommended that the Office of Judicial Administration examine the efficacy of specialty courts to more efficiently handle cases.collection of outstanding fees, it is important that courts do more to collect those that can be collected.  Furthermore, even if the revenue raised by reformation of practices is slight, it is a sign to the legislature that courts are attempting to get their own houses in order.  Similarly, translator services represent a problem that will only get larger for the courts.

Most important, in my opinion, however, are the recommendations regarding rules for the development of best practices and standardization.  If the court system is going to reap the benefits of technological advances such as e-filing, it is vital for the court system’s practices and procedures to be standardized.  The Commission recognized as much when it noted  that “[o]ther states that have implemented e-filing have found that standardization of processes is the key to efficiency in an e-filing environment.”

Moreover, if practices and procedures are going to be standardized, the promotion of best practices must be emphasized in order to obtain the most benefits.  Consistent with the recommendation, the Supreme Court and the district court should work to promote the development and sharing of best
practices.  This might include the use and promotion of specialty courts.

G.  Other Recommendations

The Commission made other recommendations regarding the functions and procedures of the courts and also the Office of Judicial Administration.

Noting anecdotal evidence suggesting the need to assure decisions and opinions are issued in a timely manner, the Commission charged both the district and the appellate courts to develop guidelines to issue decisions in a timely fashion.

    The Commission also recommended that the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals look into requiring mediation at the appellate level.

    The Commission further recommended that the Supreme Court conduct periodic reviews of its list of appeals entitled to priority, in order to assure justice is being served.  Finally, the Commission recommended that the Office of Judicial Administration and the Supreme Court review their
own procedures.

Perhaps the most important of the final recommendations made by the Commission has to do with its support of the Office of Judicial Administration’s current programs that permit lawyers to provide limited advice and assistance to pro se litigants.

    The Office of Judicial

Administration is currently involved in programs that provide assistance to pro se litigants.  One of these programs is the  “Self-Help” web page and brochures that assist pro se litigants in filling out forms.

  The second is a “limited representation” project which allows an attorney to assist a pro se
litigant on a limited basis with the preparation of pleadings and other documents without entering into  an attorney-client relationship.

    The Commission found that, because the number of pro se litigants is increasing, because pro se litigants would benefit from even the limited involvement of a lawyer, and because the Weighted Caseload Study indicated that cases involving pro se litigants use more judicial resources than cases of the same type involving lawyers, expansion of programs such as the ones piloted would be useful for the Court.

A final recommendation of the Commission was that the Supreme Court should consider suggesting a number of hours that attorneys are encouraged to devote to pro se litigants, the indigent, and pro bono work.

    The Commission found that  “any increased assistance to pro se litigants by the attorneys of Kansas will not only directly benefit those pro se litigants themselves, but will also assist the courts in effectively meeting the needs of those litigants.”

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