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Title:Illinois Government Research no. 45 1977: Case Load Pressure and Felony Trial Courts: Cook County
Author(s):Nardulli, Peter F.; Proch, Kathleen
Subject(s):Illinois government
State government
Abstract:The effects of heavy case loads upon the operations of criminal courts in Illinois, as well as in almost every other state in the nation, have been the subject of much concern for over fifty years. Indeed, much of the existing empirically oriented, research on criminal courts attempts to outline the effects of case load pressure upon various aspects of court operations'. Criminal court practitioners (judges, prosecutors, public defenders, and other courtroom personnel) are usually portrayed as overworked officials adapting to adverse conditions and doing the best they can to administer criminal justice fairly and efficiently. As pervasive as the notion of case load pressure has been, however, the effects of variations in this pressure on the operations of criminal courts have not been examined rigorously and systematically Coupled with this situation are recent challenges to traditional views on criminal courts. Many contemporary criminal justice researchers question the relationship between case load pressure and criminal court malfunctioning, as well as the utility of resolving criminal court problems by simply increasing court manpower. In their view, case loads provide a convenient explanation — a "nonreactive cause" — for. what takes place in criminal courts. That is, unlike judges or prosecutors, case loads cannot respond to accusations. Here, elements of this controversy are addressed. First, a brief overview of the historical development of the case load controversy is given, with particular emphasis upon Illinois and Cook County. Then, the results of a limited empirical examination of the effect of variations in case load pressure upon the operations of Cook County felony trial courts are reported. These results show that variations in case loads have no impact upon some of the most important aspects of trial court operations. An explanation for these findings is presented which focuses upon several unique institutional features of criminal courts. Some empirical evidence is also offered for this view of trial courts. Finally, implications of these analyses for court reform are considered.
Issue Date:1977-09
Publisher:Institute of Government and Public Affairs. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Series/Report:Illinois Government Research, no. 45 (September 1977)
Genre:Working / Discussion Paper
Publication Status:published or submitted for publication
Rights Information:Copyright 1977 Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois
Date Available in IDEALS:2008-12-06

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