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Delaware Courts Participate in Process Improvement Workshops

Through a partnership with the University of Delaware, managers and administrators from Delaware Courts and the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) participated in a series of process improvement workshops this summer, with the goal of learning new approaches to streamline and improve systems in their courts. Coordinated by Tom Mraz of the AOC, the training consisted of four workshops covering how the tools and techniques of process improvement can improve efficiencies in the courts.

Workshop Participants photo
Workshop participants, from left to right, Kim Butler, Judicial Case Processor, Justice of the Peace Court; Lisa Robinson, Deputy Court Administrator, Kent County Superior Court; and Michael Ferry, Management Analyst, Superior Court.

Ongoing process improvement serves as an integral part of the Delaware Courts Automation Project (DCAP), the courts' case management modernization project, which will feature improvements such as the expansion of e-filing options and consolidated access to electronic documents and case data used by the courts. A national leader in this area, Delaware was one of the first states to use e-filing and electronic docketing systems for civil court cases.

As Functional Lead for DCAP, Mraz works with the courts to help define their needs and document the desired processes and results of the Automation Project. He stated, "The court administrators and managers involved in the process improvement training are operations experts and responsible for ensuring their courts' operations are running as efficiently as possible. Many of them develop the procedures in their courts, so this offered a good opportunity to enhance their skills in doing that."

Participating courts included the Court of Chancery, Superior Court, Court of Common Pleas, Family Court, and Justice of the Peace Court, plus the AOC, including the Judicial Information Center and the Office of State Court Collections Enforcement.

The workshops covered key process improvement areas such as documenting existing work systems, identifying inefficiencies and their root causes, and using solution identification techniques to improve those systems. Each participant came to the workshop prepared to document and analyze an existing work process in their court.

"The Courts and the AOC hope to expand process improvement initiatives on a global level, looking at our processes critically, and identifying and eliminating, impediments to providing our services as efficiently and effectively as we can."

Tom Mraz, AOC

The workshops were extremely well received by participants, many of whom commented enthusiastically about the value of the tools and techniques covered to promote on-going process improvement in court operations. One workshop participant, Charlotte Walsh, Justice of the Peace Court Management Analyst, selected that Court's video arraignment process for her hands-on case study, and focused on streamlining the process, and eventually expanding its use. Walsh said: "The Justice of the Peace Court is interested in making improvements within our Court to benefit both the court staff and the public we serve. We are taking a hard look at how we do business today and how we can do business tomorrow because we don't want to automate a bad process or bad data going forward."

The University of Delaware course was customized for the Delaware Courts by the Division of Professional and Continuing Studies and taught by Steve Horah, an Adjunct Faculty member. Horah elaborated on the benefits of this approach: "The primary benefit of a targeted training approach is the focus on improving real processes during the course of the training program. Delaware Courts' participants were fully engaged from the outset of the program and, much to their credit, eagerly worked on achieving actual court system process improvements."

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