There are always elements of the court that are working well, and others which can be better. The key lies in identifying changes that will be effective, and being able to make those changes.
Improvements should happen as quickly as possible, but should also be done in a way that makes them last a long time. We cannot make every change. Resources simply do not allow it.
The International Framework for Court Excellence (IFCE) is a quality management system designed to help courts improve performance. It is built on several core values: Equality before the law, fairness, impartiality, independence of decision-making, competence, integrity, transparency, accessibility, timeliness and certainty.
“Improvements should happen as quickly as possible, but should also be done in a way that makes them last a long time”
These core values guarantee justice and equal protection to all who appear in the District Court.
The IFCE provides a framework for the District Court judiciary, together with the Ministry of Justice, to assess how well we are delivering on those core values. Every few years this is assessed through an in-depth survey of judges and ministry officials. This assessment pinpoints areas for improvement. It also helps identify whether improvement is needed at a local, regional or national level. It identifies processes that are working well, and why they are working well, so they can be applied to other areas.
From that assessment, we can establish potential ways to make things better in areas needing improvement. The judiciary and Ministry of Justice then work together to try to deliver as many of those changes as possible. It is a constant process. There have been assessments in 2012 and 2015. The next one is scheduled for 2019.
Since the original assessment in 2012, we have identified necessary changes to how the court operates. Together with the ministry, we have made improvements and are still working on others. Some examples include:
- Developing protocols for the rostering and scheduling of court work, to ensure a more effective way to deal with large workloads.
- Identifying daily workloads that balance the need to complete as much work as possible with allowing high-quality decision-making.
- Improving strategic planning.
- Producing an annual report containing court performance data and other material relevant to the functioning of the court.
- Building a District Court website, and publishing decisions online.
- Improving what the community knows about the work of the courts.
- Improving assistance to people who represent themselves in court.
- Providing nationally-consistent staff training.
- Creating a strong environment for judges and ministry personnel to work together at local, regional and national levels.
There is always more work to be done. There are always ways to improve. It is our challenge to keep finding and implementing them … to aim to be excellent.
— Judge Barney Thomas
IFCE Committee Member