Indiana Supreme Court
Office of Judicial Administration
State House, Room 314
200 W. Washington Street
Indianapolis, IN 46204
Chief Administrative Officer
The Indiana Weighted Caseload Measurement (WCM) system is currently under review. The 2015 measures are based on the most recent (2009) study.
The Indiana Weighted Caseload Measurement (WCM) system is a uniform, statewide method of comparing trial court caseloads. The system was first developed in 1993-1994 by the Judicial Administration Committee (Committee) of the Indiana Judicial Conference and the Division of State Court Administration (now the Indiana Office of Court Services), with the help of a consultant with nationally recognized expertise in weighted caseload measurement evaluations. The system is periodically revalidated, and it is again undergoing an update and revalidation this year.
Indiana’s caseload measurement system employs a standard methodology used by many state court systems and the National Center for State Courts to compare trial court caseloads. Based on time studies and actual case file audits, a WCL system ascribes relative “weights” measured in minutes to each new case filed in Indiana’s trial courts of record.
The Indiana Supreme Court has defined, in Administrative Rule 8, thirty-nine different case types that are used to designate new filings. Without a WCL system, each of the case types, whether a murder of infraction, would receive a weight or count of “one”. A WCL system provides the basis for relative comparison between the different case types and allows courts and court policy makers to determine the resources necessary to handle the courts’ caseloads.
The original WCL study involved more than 200 judicial officers who maintained time sheets for specific periods of time. During the first phase of the study, the Committee developed a list of specific case actions that occur before, during, and after a case. The list included pretrial motions, jury trials, research, hearings, and post-judgment actions such as probation revocation, motions for modification of support, and remanded trial after an appeal. The participating judicial officers maintained time sheets recording how long each of these particular actions took. The next phase of the study involved auditing thousands of randomly selected case files, some already closed for many years and others still active. The audit revealed how often each of the specific case actions occurred in particular case types. The consultant then analyzed all the collected data to determine, based on a statewide average, how often these actions occurred in each case type and how many minutes were attributed to each action. The data resulted in the establishment of a statewide average of relative time, in minutes, for handling each of the case types.
The Committee also determined the number of minutes available to every judicial officer in a calendar year for handling case-related activities. This number was derived by deducting time from the average 40-hour workweek for events or obligations that reduce the available time to work on cases, such as vacations, illness, administrative responsibilities, education, community activities, and public outreach.
As statutes and rules have changed, the number of judicial actions and the time it takes to process them changes. Since the original study, the Committee has conducted a very similar exercise several times in order to reexamine the different weights.
The WCL system is used to evaluate new filings only. It allows courts to forecast the judicial resources that would be necessary to process the cases being filed in a particular court or county. It does not necessarily indicate how hard a particular court is working but indicates the size of the judicial “inventory” of cases that the court must resolve. A number of other state court systems have also adopted performance time standards for processing cases that together with a WCL system can provide valuable information for strategic planning of judicial resources.
Because the WCL system is based on statewide averages, it is important to keep in mind that it encompasses cases that are dismissed before any action is ever taken by a court, cases that are settled, cases that are reopened numerous times, and cases that may take four weeks to try. It is also important to remember that averages cannot reflect specific local differences that may affect a particular county or court.
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.
The 2015 weighted caseload data indicates that the state average utilization is 1.18. This means, on average, each court is carrying a caseload that would take 1.18 judges to handle or, conversely, each court has 18% 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 81.36 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.
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:
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 2015.
Administrative Rule 1 requires the Indiana Office of Court Services 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 county caseload allocation plans to ensure the difference in WCL utilization between any two courts within the county not exceed a .40 variance of each other.