What is the “Indiana Weighted Caseload Measurement System?”
Since 1996, Indiana has utilized a weighted caseload measurement system (WCMS) to establish a uniform statewide method for comparing trial court caseloads. The system is necessary as it provides an objective method of determining the adequate resources needed to effectively manage the caseloads around the state. The development of the weighting system began in 1993 when the Judicial Administration Committee of the Indiana Judicial Conference, the Indiana Supreme Court, the former Division of State Court Administration, and an independent consultant began a two-year study to design a system for measuring trial court caseloads. Subsequent studies have been completed in 2002, 2009, with the most recent Indiana Caseload Assessment Plan to Utilize Resources Efficiently (CAPTURE) report being published in 2016.
The basic premise of a caseload assessment system is that all case types are not equal and each case type requires a different amount of time to complete from initial filing up through the final disposition of the case. To establish the “weight” each particular case type should be given, it first has to be determined the average amount of time in minutes each case type takes to complete. During the most recent weighted caseload assessment study, thirty-nine case categories were examined,
Specifically, the weighted caseload assessment studies have asked judicial officers to track the time they spent on case-related activities such as prejudgment hearings, trial preparation, plea/admissions, bench trials, settlements, jury trials, opinions, orders, sentencing/disposition, post judgment hearings, and research. As part of the weighted caseload assessment studies completed in 1996, 2002 and 2009 only a sample of judicial officers from around the state were asked to participate in the study. During the most recent study completed in 2016, every judicial officer in the state was asked to participate and 472 of the 475 judicial officers kept track of their time.
What does “NEED” “HAVE” and “UTIL” mean?
The WCL data is organized in three columns. The “NEED” column indicates the number of judicial officers that are needed in the court for the number of new cases filed in that court during the calendar year. This number is derived by dividing the total number of minutes for all the filed cases by the total number of minutes available to the judicial officers in that court for case related activity. The “HAVE” column indicates the number of regularly assigned judicial officers serving the court during the year. These include state paid judges and magistrates and locally paid commissioners. The “UTIL”, meaning “utilization”, is the relationship between the number of cases filed and the number of judicial officers available to hear them.
What is “Relative Severity of Need?”
The 2019 weighted caseload data indicates that the state average utilization is 1.03. This means, on average, each court is carrying a caseload that would take 1.03 judges to handle or, conversely, each court has 3% more cases than it could process under the WCL standard. This also means that, in order to bring every court to 1.0 utilization, the state needs 14 additional judicial officers. Given the fact that there is a statewide need for more judges, how can we determine where the need is most serious?
The “relative severity of need” concept provides a relative comparison of the need for new judges in each county. The “Severity of Need” table reflects the counties’ WCL need sorted by largest to smallest.
This concept is best illustrated by an example: if the report indicates County A and County B each need two additional judges, at first glance their need may appear to be identical. Because of the number of judicial officers already working in a county, however, the severity of need may vary significantly. If County A already has 10 judicial officers and needs two judges, it means that each of the 10 judicial officers has to carry an additional 20% caseload. On the other hand, if County B only has two judicial officers and needs two more, it means that each of its existing judges is already handling a 200% caseload. Obviously, the “relative severity” of County B’s need for new judges is far greater than the need for County A.
What sort of information does the “Temporary Adjusted Weighted Caseload” report present?
The Indiana WCL measures system is intended to apply only to new case filings, and the annual judicial reports and reports on severity of need reflect statistics based solely on the number of new cases filed in each court. However, each year, the baseline utilization figures shift during the year due to the transfer of cases and/or transfer of judicial time. This may happen because of conflicts, change of venue from the judge or county, amended caseload allocation plans, senior and other temporary judge service, etc.
Thus, we have calculated the temporary, adjusted weighted caseload utilization figures. These temporary, adjusted statistics have been calculated by:
- Adding to the court’s total minutes the cases in which the reporting judge assumed jurisdiction as a special judge in other courts
- Adding to the court’s total minutes the venued in and transferred in cases
- Subtracting from the court’s total minutes the number of cases in which another judge assumed jurisdiction as a special judge in the reporting court
- Subtracting from the court’s total minutes the venued out and transferred out cases
- Adding to the reporting court’s total minutes the time that Senior Judges serve in the reporting court
The information in the "Temporary Adjusted Weighted Caseload Report" does not change the fundamental filing patterns in the trial courts. It reflects some of the ways that courts shift caseloads and resources, sometimes in order to deal with uneven caseloads. Because these shifts are temporary, they should only be used as an additional reference and not as the baseline for weighted caseload statistics. The temporary data is reported so that courts could see how the shifting of caseloads and judicial officer resources actually played out in 2018.
Administrative Rule 1
Administrative Rule 1 requires the Indiana Office of Judicial Administration to publish the WCL report by April 15 of each year. The WCL report is based on the prior year’s statistics. Administrative Rule 1 (E) requires the courts of record in a county to develop and implement caseload allocation plans (CAP) that ensure an even distribution of judicial workload among the courts in the county.