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Bench and Bar Survey Results

July 24, 2007

Dear Friends and Colleagues:

With the help of the trial bench, appellate bar, and the public, the Court of Appeals has embarked upon a unique project that involves setting objective standards to measure our performance and to identify ways in which our appellate processes may be improved. Some of you have already participated by filling out our online survey--the results of which we are pleased to share with you in the accompanying statistical summaries.

The purpose of this survey was to provide insight into the quality of the court's work. As one of the three "success factors" we have identified to which our court must aspire, quality captures the notions of fairness, equality, clarity, transparency, and integrity of the judicial process. The court appreciates the high survey response we received and thanks those who participated. We expect to learn much from the survey results and to improve the survey tool itself as time passes. Nevertheless, even before we fully digest the results, we want to share them with you.

To give you some background on this project, a Court of Appeals design team began meeting in the fall of 2005 to develop a set of success factors (what makes for a "successful" appellate court experience) and an accompanying set of core performance measures to use to attempt to measure our relative success. Thereafter, our court tentatively agreed upon the success factors of (1) quality, (2) timeliness and efficiency, and (3) public trust and confidence.

As our first formal attempt to measure the quality of our work, we proceeded with the survey that the design team had devised to determine the percentage of members of the Oregon appellate bar and trial bench who believe that the Oregon Court of Appeals is delivering quality justice, in both its adjudicative and other functions. Our initial survey group consisted of attorneys and judges involved in a circuit court case on appeal in which a case dispositional decision was entered between July and December 2006.

The survey items primarily derived from the state appellate court system performance standards published by the National Center for State Courts in 1995 and 1999. The survey was administered (and analyzed automatically) via the Internet using a commercially available online survey service. In March 2007, we sent an e-mail to the bar and bench containing instructions about accessing the online survey, as well as introductory comments to encourage good response rates.

All responses were completely anonymous. We asked respondents to provide some demographic information in the survey (e.g., gender, race/ethnicity, and geographic region) in order to try to ascertain whether our level of success varied with those factors. The survey responses revealed very small numbers in some demographic groups and so, to protect the anonymity of respondents and from concern about the validity of data, we include a demographic breakdown only by gender.

As you can see, four out of five appellate attorneys and trial judges say that the court is doing a good job. Survey respondents gave the highest marks to the court’s treatment of the trial court judges and appellate attorneys involved in the cases on appeal. Nine out ten believe that the Court of Appeals treats them with courtesy and respect. A lesser percentage of respondents, approximately two out of three, believe that the court handles its caseload efficiently, that the court is accessible to the public and attorneys in terms of its cost, and that the court does a good job in informing the bar and the public of its procedures.

Before publishing the survey results, our design team considered whether the court should first have a comprehensive plan that responds to the survey results. The team decided against that strategy, because analyzing the survey results and responding to them should not be exclusively a top-down process. The job of court leaders and managers is not strictly to tell people what to do, but rather, in broader terms, to identify institutional performance expectations. From a leadership and management perspective, the establishment of performance expectations and the analysis of data relating to those expectations facilitates focus and helps inspire meaningful and practical suggestions for future action. Please be assured that the court will evaluate the initial survey results with those principles in mind. We know that we have work to do.

We intend to conduct this survey at least once a year for the next several years in order to obtain feedback from as many appellate practitioners and trial judges as possible. The Court of Appeals is convinced that asking those who use and are affected by the court for their views and perceptions about the appellate process--and learning from their responses--will ensure that the court remains a strong and accountable component of Oregon's state government.

Again, thank you. Please do not hesitate to contact me personally if you have questions or suggestions.

Sincerely yours,

David Brewer
Chief Judge, Oregon Court of Appeals
1163 State Street
Salem, OR 97301

Statistical Summaries