Political Science Course Options for the JA Credit-bearing Certificate
PLS 831 Trial Courts as Organizations
Trial courts are a major American public institution. They are the forums where serious charges are prosecuted, negotiated, or tried and resolved. Because very few trial court sentences of incarceration are reversed on appeal, the decisions of these bodies are of profound significance. Given the loss of liberty to those convicted as well as the resulting expenditures for their incarceration (and the resulting opportunity costs across state general fund budgets), trial courts have a tremendous and growing impact on our society.
Yet, despite their crucial role in society, trial courts are perhaps the most understudied major public institution in terms of organizational culture. Executive agencies or departments are much more likely to be objects of study in those spheres. Some nibbling around the edges has occurred, but no research program has been mounted to formulate and test through systematic measurement the effects of cultural variation on how criminal court business is conducted. Courts have been on the periphery of organizational culture assessment largely because the conventional wisdom cites intractable obstacles to the enterprise (e.g., Gallas, 1987). Common perceptions include the following:
-Courts are viewed as so decentralized, fragmented and autonomous that they defy comparison and contrast along common dimensions.
-Courts are seen as lacking measurable performance goals due to their pursuit of justice, quality and other intangible objectives.
-Local court culture is inchoate.
Hence, courts are regarded as the polar case of a public institution unsusceptible to the study of organizational culture in the public sector. As a result, in relevant literatures to the study of culture and work in the public sector, (e.g., Wilson, 1989; Diluilo, 1989; and Rainey, 2003), courts are omitted from the discussion. Trial courts are seemingly outside the framework of modern public organizational studies except in their appellate role as constraints on other organizations.
Course Goals. This course aims to rectify the fact that trial courts have become an historically understudied public institution. To this end, the following are the goals for this course:
-To be able to characterize the competing values approach to organizations.
-To be able to define the key concepts underlying organizational culture.
-To apply the key concepts of organizational culture to the trial courts.
-To understand the ways in which trial court culture affects performance.
-To utilize Senge’s templates, in conjunction with the competing values framework, to gain “leverage” on managing trial court culture
PLS 832 Managing the Trial Courts: Conceptualizing and Measuring Trial Court Performance
Trial courts are an understudied public institution. In PLS 721 we noted that courts – like all public institutions – have cultures. Furthermore, understanding the culture is important to being able to management the courts. In PLS 722, we focus on performance measurement. Like organizational culture, there is a substantial literature on private sector performance. In this course, we will investigate the connections as well as the basic components of an organizational performance system. Crucial to any such system are the following three factors. First, it is necessary to develop coherent, court-wide grammar so that performance can be conceptualized and discussed. Second, it is important for the courts to develop a coherent approach to generating/collecting the performance data it needs for its information architecture. Third, it is necessary to develop the set of rules that governs the flow of information. Who is responsible for how measures are taken? Who actually generates the data? Who receives and analyzes them? Who is responsible for changing the rules? Because information is an important source of power, the way a court answers these questions matters deeply.
Course Goals. The following are the goals of this course:
-To understand the general principles of performance-based management
-What is performance measurement?
-How does one establish a performance measurement system?
-How does one choose a performance-based management framework?
-How do courts develop performance measures?
-To translate the general principles of performance-based management into the trial court arena.
-To develop performance measurements for trial courts.
-To understand the issues relating to the maintenance an integrated performance measurement system in the trial court.
PLS 833 Organizing, Workload, and Performance in Trial Courts
One of the most pressing issues in trial courts is the assessment of the need for judges and staff. This is the subject of the second part of this course. While the determination of judge and staff need is important, there is one additional question that must precede any such assessment – judges and staff for what? While PLS 722 focuses on performance measures, PLS 723 focuses on how one organizes court staff to achieve a set of performance standards. In order to organize for optimal performance, it is necessary to understand the values and motives of those working in the staff. In addition, it is important to investigate the concept and operationalization of employee satisfaction as well as the connection between satisfaction and performance. Having looked at organizing as well as workload, the course focus turns to the concept of effective public organizations – in general – and high performing courts – specifically. Building upon the foundation laid in PLS 721 and PLS 722, PLS 723 brings all of the central concepts together in order to investigate the basic requirements and considerations of high performing trial courts.
Course Goals. The goals for this course are as follows:
-To understand the roles that people play in public organizations.
-To understand the importance of employee satisfaction in terms of its impact on performance.
-To understand the basic concepts and methods in measuring workloadTo understand how to interpret and use the -results from both judicial and court staff workload studies.
-To understand how to develop a comprehensive court resource modelTo be able to articulate the essential characteristics of a high performing court.
PLS 834 Analyzing the Trial Courts
For those of you that have taken the three previous courses in this sequence, you will be aware that data, analysis, and data presentation are integral skills for the court analysts and managers. The analyst/manager is confronted with data on an on-going basis: concerning current and preferred cultural preferences, performance measures, and judicial and court staff need. Having data or information, it is necessary to analyze it, display it, and use it. The primary use of data (or evidence in general) is for inferences; that is, courts rely on the ability to make descriptive or explanatory inferences on the basis of information. As King, Keohane, and Verba (1994, pp. 7-8) note:
Careful descriptions of specific phenomena are often indispensable to scientific research, but the accumulation of facts is not sufficient. Facts can be collect more or less systematically, and the former is obviously better than the latter, but our particular definition of science requires the additional step of attempting to infer beyond the immediate data to something broader that is not directly observed. That something may involve descriptive inference – using observations from the world to learn about other unobserved facts. Or that something may involve causal inference – learning about causal effects from the data involved.
Given data, it is necessary to use statistical methods to generate and analyze data whose reliability is demonstrable. We will cover descriptive statistics, hypothesis testing, table analysis, measures of association, t-tests, and regression. Once the results from such analyses are completed, it is necessary to present one’s findings. Edward Tufte, in The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, identifies the following characteristics of excellent graphical display
-Show the data
-Induce the viewer to think about the substance rather than the about methodology, graphic design, the technology of -graphic production or something else
-Avoid distorting what the data have to say
-Make large data sets coherent
-Encourage the eye to compare different pieces of data
-Reveal the data at several levels of detail, from a broad overview to the fine structure
-Serve a reasonably clear purpose: description, exploration, tabulation, or decoration
-Be close integrated with the statistical and verbal descriptions of a data set.
The central assignment for the course will be a policy memo that allows each student to demonstrate their skill set using real data relating to the trial courts. Students may utilize their own data or the instructor will make data sets available.