The European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice

What’s measured, that’s what realy matters: the calculated Clearance Rate and Disposition Time

Nowadays, the states spend more time, attention and money on the performance measurement and evaluation in the public sector than ever before1. The results-based management (or the performance management) is the talk of the day at all levels of the public sector: local, regional, national, and even supranational.

However, evaluation studies show that many attempts at introducing the results-based management are still unsuccessful2. Nevertheless, the need to measure the output, outcomes, and evaluation activities remain an important element in statements by politicians and administrators focused on improving government’s performance.

Any attempt at launching or improving the performance measurement system within any judicial system will certainly raise the question as to which performance aspects should be measured and how. Before the making of the final list of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that are build into the foundation of any performance measurement system, the two indicators that are worth looking into are “Clearance Rate” and “Disposition Time”. Both indicators are described in the CEPEJ report European Judicial Systems (Edition 2008), Chapter 9. Fair trial and court activity.

The first indicator, the calculated Clearance Rate, obtained when the number of resolved cases is divided by the number of incoming cases, is one of the most commonly used indicators to monitor the case flow. Essentially, this indicator is used to assess the ability of a judicial system to handle the inflow of judicial cases. The inability of courts or judiciary to produce the data needed to calculate the Clearance Rate could clearly indicate that the tools described in the CEPEJ’ Time Management Checklist, are insufficiently developed. More specifically, the inability to produce Clearance Rate indicates the inability of a judicial system (or a court) to assess the overall length of proceedings, there is a lack of a standardized typology of cases, there is no ability to monitor the course of proceedings and there are no means to promptly detect delays and mitigate their consequences.

The second indicator, the calculated Disposition Time, provides further insight into the way the judicial system manages the flow of cases. Generally, case turnover ratio and Disposition Time compare the number of resolved cases during a reporting period with the number of unresolved cases at the end of that period. The ratios measure how frequently a judicial system (or a court) turns over the cases received – that is, how long it takes to resolve a case type. Indirectly, this indicator gives the answer to one of the questions most raised within a judicial system – what is the overall length of proceedings.

The application of the two indicators allows us to come up with instructive questions and leads to a better understanding of how a judicial system operates and what challenges and obstacles it faces. When applied for a longer period of time, the indicators can be used to identify conspicuous trends and compare judicial performance in key areas between various judicial systems or courts.

Finally, it must be noted that the building of the Performance Measurement System in judiciary is an ongoing process that should eventually lead to the establishment of the Performance Management System. This absolutely evokes the words of the Austrian-born American management expert Peter Drucker - “You can't manage what you can't measure.“

Adis Hodžić
Head of Budget and Statistics Department
High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council of BiH

1 (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development [OECD], 1996; Pollitt & Bouckaert, 2000, p. 87; Power, 1997).

2 (see, for example, Leeuw&Van Gils, 1999, for a review of Dutch studies).