To achieve maximum efficiency in moving cases through the system, the state trial courts of Davidson County are analyzing caseloads among all of their criminal and civil courts.
Under the present traditional method, judges are specialists within an area of the law, and cases are assigned according to specialties, such as criminal or personal injury. Of Metro’s 18 trial courts, six serve as criminal courts and 12 serve as civil courts, hearing matters ranging from divorce and wills to business and government lawsuits. General sessions courts are not part of this review.
This system creates efficiencies through its specialization, but doesn’t address caseload increases that may occur in a particular specialty. The result can be delays within that specialty unless traditional assignments are altered. For example, Metro presently has a surplus of criminal and domestic cases.
An alternative under consideration is to cross train judges and staff, and to assign cases outside of the courts’ specialties, distributing these surplus cases to other courts where the caseload is less. The objective is to build flexibility and accomplish more with existing resources.
There are many challenges that must be considered, such as security, and the additional demand for resources by the agencies and offices involved in the judicial process.
“The judges understand and appreciate that many stakeholders must be considered before a court’s responsibility is shifted. We are seeking advice from these parties and consider such input as paramount to a successful transition,” said Presiding Judge Joe P. Binkley, Jr. “Caseloads will be regularly evaluated in the future. Given our present demands, we plan to adjust our resources to best serve the public.”
“Our goals are to keep cases moving through the court system as quickly as possible,” said Tim Townsend, Trial Court administrator. “We also will strive to maintain a balanced workload for all courts. While the total number of cases has remained remarkably stable over the past three years, we are finding that they do not always fall within the same areas.”