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CourTool Measure 1 - Court Access and Fairness

Overview

CourTool Measure 1, Court Access and Fairness, assesses court patrons’ experience by examining the court’s accessibility and its treatment in terms of fairness, equity, and respect. According to the National Center for State Courts (NCSC), while “winning” or “losing” may be what concerns most when it comes to trials, patrons’ court experiences are shaped more by how they are treated in court and whether the court’s process of making decisions seems fair and impartial.

In spring 2006, Montgomery County Circuit Court administered the NCSC’s Access and Fairness Survey to its court patrons. The survey was completed by 721 patrons who were asked to rate each survey item using a scale that ranges from strongly agree to strongly disagree. Overall, the survey results that measure perceptions of access and fairness among Montgomery County Circuit Court patrons are favorable. However, these findings should be interpreted with caution because of data limitations including the low survey response rate. As in other surveys, not all respondents answered all the questions, and the number of respondents who completed each survey item varies greatly. For instance, less than half of the patrons answered some of the fairness questions. In addition, because of the way the survey was administered, the resultant sample may not be a random sample, affecting the representativeness of the sample results and the Court’s ability to generalize the results to all court patrons.

Despite its limitations, however, the survey provides the Court with benchmark metrics against which future performance will be assessed. Montgomery County Circuit Court will continue to survey court patrons and track changes in their perceptions of accessibility and fairness over time. Additionally, prior to re-administering the survey, the Court will review its content, format, and planned administration making modifications as appropriate to ensure that the information collected will inform the Court about patrons’ court experiences. Further, by collecting data over time, the Court will be able to track changes in those experiences.

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