Realistic time frame for court cases goal of new software

The public, the Bar and Bench deserve efficiency says CJ

Chief Justice Michael Kruse has suggested that the Judicial branch and the American Samoa Bar Association develop realistic time frames for all cases, including appeals, to proceed to final resolution.

Kruse made the recommendation in a Nov. 1 memo to the Bar and a copy to the bench in which he states that the Judicial has been working with a new case management software system that District Court Judge Elvis Patea and the CJ’s staff have been working on with a selected vendor, and hopefully this system will be in place this year.

In preparatory discussions concerning  the case management software, Kruse said it became apparent that the traditional approach of conducting business at the High Court is unduly time consuming and to a large extent, not geared to reaching resolution of particular cases within pre-determined time frames.

“The public, the Bar and Bench deserves more efficiency in time and expense than has previously been available due to the limitations of facilities and personnel,” the chief justice wrote. “Our case backlog reduction efforts also indicated that many lawsuits are filed and simply left to languish or go dormant after some interlocutory motion.”

“To correct this situation I am suggesting the Bench and Bar develop realistic time frames for all cases to proceed to final resolution, including appeals,” said Kruse adding that this would also include different tracks for cases in similar categories depending upon the complexity of a particular case.

For example, a non-contested divorce involving minimal property or child support issues should be resolved within 90-days or less. According to the chief justice, the bulk of land and title cases should be resolved within one year and likewise with most other civil actions filed in High Court.

Kruse said the District Court has been experimenting with this approach as well as scheduling categories of cases — and attorney appearances — on certain days at specific times. Under that approach, all cases filed are set for a preliminary hearing and cases are never taken “off-calendar” but are rescheduled for future specific “meaningful events” — i.e. motions, pre-trials and trial.

Kruse said he will be issuing a discussion draft outlining a similar approach for the High Court including time limits for case resolution for review and comments from the bench and the Bar Association.

In the interim, Kruse said he would welcome any suggestions — including constructive criticism of any present difficulties in scheduling, etc. — that will assist these efforts.

Kruse also discussed in the memo the Judicial branch’s look at establishing “alternative dispute resolution” (ADR) programs. See yesterday’s edition for full details on ADR.


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