Nearly all of Minnesota’s judicial districts showed improvement in the length of time it takes before eligible children are adopted, according to the annual performance report released this month by the state’s judicial branch.
The 44-page report breaks down how efficiently the court system handles its thousands of criminal, civil, probate and family cases. Measured were clearance rates, the age of pending cases and the time it takes to find foster care homes and permanent adoption homes.
The report cites performance gains in the handling of major criminal cases. Only 6.5 percent of the cases took longer than a year to resolve, the best result since 2009.
It also includes the results of an “access and fairness” survey given to jurors. Almost all of the 44,000 jurors who reported for service in 2014 completed the survey. Their demographic information proved to be similar racially, ethnically and by gender to the population of their communities.
For example, Hennepin and Ramsey County’s judicial districts had the most diverse jury makeup. Hennepin’s jurors were nearly 82 percent white, while Ramsey’s were 77 percent white. Some outstate judicial districts’ jurors were nearly 100 percent white.
Some areas of concern in the report dealt with the clearance rate for dependency and neglect cases. There was a backlog in handling children-in-need-of-protection petitions, and two judicial districts had fewer than 30 percent of children reach adoption within two years.
Several districts noted that they used specific plans to improve case flow, including consolidation of felony case teams, block scheduling in suburban courthouses and pretrial settlement pilots.
In another area, the report found that 90 percent of 3,462 children removed from their homes were placed in a permanent home within a year and a half. The rate of 57 percent of children being adopted within two years in 2015 was the best statewide result over the past five years, the report said.
State appellate courts, including the Supreme Court, also were measured for how quickly they dispose of cases. In 2014, the Appeals Court disposed of 91 percent of its cases within a year.
Results from the access and fairness survey for court participants were generally positive. Seventy-eight percent said their case was handled fairly. Some specific demographic groups, such as blacks and juvenile defendants, were less satisfied.
The report includes a “quality court workplace” survey of nearly 2,000 employees and judges. Ninety-one percent said they understand how their job contributes to the overall mission of the state’s judicial branch, but percentages were lower when they discussed relationships with managers and supervisors.