In this blog David B. Wexler, Honorary President of International Society for Therapeutic Jurisprudence discusses how the 3rd Edition of the International Framework for Court Excellence is a major advance for therapeutic jurisprudence.
The international framework for court excellence
The International Framework for Court Excellence was launched in 2008 by an international consortium from Europe, Asia, Australia, and the United States. Its 2nd Edition was released in 2013. In May 2020, the 3rd Edition was released. The Framework is “a quality management system designed to help courts improve their performance. It represents an all-encompassing approach to achieving court excellence, rather than a more limited focus on particular aspects of court governance, management, or operations. The Framework consists of:
- Universal core values, seven areas of court excellence aligned with those values, as well as concepts and tools by which courts worldwide can voluntarily assess and improve the quality of justice and court administration.
- A self-evaluation process using the Court Excellence Self-Assessment Questionnaire that evaluates a court’s performance against seven areas of excellence, and provides guidance for courts to improve their performance.
- The Global Measures of Court Performance include eleven focused, clear, and actionable core court performance measures aligned with the values and areas of court excellence of the Framework.
The Framework is in English but it has already been translated into Arabic, French, Indonesian, and more.
Importantly, to further TJ approaches in courts worldwide, the 3rd Edition includes some new topics and some key language.
First, the Framework’s self-assessment questionnaire, the starting point for identifying how a court is performance and identifying areas for improvement, includes two important statements for consideration (p.26):
We provide alternative dispute resolution services to allow court users to resolve disputes amicably and at affordable fees.
We explore the use of therapeutic or problem-solving approaches in suitable cases.
Then, later (p.28), putting some meat on the bones of the problem-solving and therapeutic approaches, the Framework provides:
In some instances, courts may consider the use of therapeutic or problem-solving approaches, which seek to address the underlying issues instead of only focusing on the legal problem. Problem-solving approaches have been used in specialized problem-solving courts, such as drug courts, domestic violence courts, and mental health courts in the United States, Australia, and other countries. Some features of a problem-solving approach include a focus on target groups, and the use of treatment and social services. In a problem-solving approach, multiple agencies work together with the courts in the treatment and/or supervision of the offender/litigant. There may also be judicial monitoring of the offender/litigant, who returns to court with regular reviews with a judge to track their progress.
Therapeutic jurisprudence is an area of study that focuses on the impact that the law has on emotional and psychological well-being. A therapeutic jurisprudence approach considers the well-being of litigants by improving the procedural fairness of the court experience such as facilitating access to treatment and services where appropriate.
At the moment, the above is the only language in the 3rd Edition itself that speaks directly to problem-solving and therapeutic jurisprudence. Later editions will likely further amplify its presence.
Further ideas, examples and leads
Although the 3rd Edition itself doesn’t yet provide detailed ideas, examples, and leads for just how to make the most out of the newly embraced goal of wellbeing, the interested reader can indeed soak up those ideas, examples, and leads without even leaving the Framework website. Under the website’s “Resource/Resource from the Courts” tab is a link to an article of which I am a third author together with Australian lawyer Elizabeth Richardson and Australian Magistrate Pauline Spencer, first published in 25 Journal of Judicial Administration 148 (2016): “The International Framework for Court Excellence and Therapeutic Jurisprudence: Creating Excellent Courts and Enhancing Wellbeing”. Also available via the easily available SSRN platform. This article discussed how TJ and the Framework can be used together to enhance court excellence. Appendix C of the article provides questions that could be incorporated into the self-assessment questionaire to integrate TJ approaches across a court.
We are gratified that our proposal to fortify the Framework with an endorsement of TJ when appropriate has been accepted. And we hope our article fully on point will make the new addition to the 3rd Edition even more fruitful to readers interested in exploring how TJ can further court excellence.
We are always looking for the opportunity to examine the usefulness of TJ, and, as noted above, we see the Framework is now gaining support in many different nations—together with translation to a growing list of language groups. Stay tuned as the TJ and Court Excellence article is now being translated into Italian and Spanish. We think such translations will serve as an educational opportunity and a public service and will enrich the Framework and its impact.
David B. Wexler – firstname.lastname@example.org