Benefit of Doubt Approach to Case Weighting: Improving and Simplifying the Assessment of Workload in Courts

Jesper Wittrup, Peter Bogetoft

Publikation: Working paperForskning


The implementation of an efficient and reliable case weighting system (CWS) is currently considered essential for running an efficient judiciary. However, traditional models for establishing case weights are time-consuming and expensive. Furthermore, since such case weights are often viewed as indications of the relative " importance " of different types of court cases, they are bound to raise controversy. The most elaborate weighting system is likely to have its critics who question whether the established weights are fair. To address these issues, we suggest a new " benefit of the doubt " approach. We allow for uncertain weights based on only partial information about the " true " weights, and we evaluate individual courts with the weights that put them in their most favorable light. The partial information about weights can originate as interval estimates: e.g., case type A requires between 150 and 250 minutes, or as simple ordinal rankings, e.g., case type B requires more time than case type A. The use of partial weight information and a benefit of the doubt approach reduces the need for detailed time-studies and prolonged " negotiations " among stakeholders. Moreover, most of the applications of detailed case weights can continue to be accomplished. We can continue to evaluate the efficiency of the course, the device sound and the fair resource allocation procedures that are robust to the remaining uncertainty about weights. Our approach also dispenses with certain limitations of a traditional weighted caseload approach, including the implicit assumptions of constant returns to scale and a constant rate of substitution between caseloads. We illustrate our approach on a dataset from the Danish district courts. We first show that a weighted case system is superior to " unweighted " assessment. We then show how the doubts approach in fact can identify nearly all the relevant reallocation implied by the original fixed weights model. We also explain how we have used the benefit of the doubt approach to assess court staff (re)allocations in Romania and Moldova.
Antal sider25
StatusUdgivet - 2017
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