2 Traditional Case Weighting

Traditional case weighting implies that all court cases are grouped into a number of case types. For each case type a weight is furthermore defined. The weight should reflect the average (judge2) work time per case.

For example, imagine a court has two case types, A and B. In a given year it receives 20 cases of type A and 150 cases of type B. If the weight for case type A is 10 (e.g. days), while the weight for B is 1 (day), then the expected work time for solving all the type A cases is \(20*10=200\) (days), while the expected work time for completing all the type B cases is \(150*1=150\) (days). The combined workload is the expected time for completing all cases = \(200+150=350\) (days).

One of the attractive attributes of traditional case weighting is that it requires only very simple math. Mathematically, it can be expressed in simple terms. If there are m case types, m weights \(W_{1},…, W_{m}\) and the number of cases within each case type in court j is \(C_{1,j},…, C_{m,j}\), the estimated workload \(L_{k}\) in court k, i.e., the time needed in court j, is given by \[L_{k}=W_{1}*C_{1,k}+⋯+W_{m}*C_{m,k}=\sum_{i=1}^m W_{i} *C_{i,k}\]

If we want to ensure a balanced allocation of judges, implying all courts achieve approximately the same average workload per judge3, then in a system with n courts, and the calculated workload of court k, \(L_{k}\), the number of judges \(J_{k}^*\) to be allocated to court k is \[J_k^*=\frac {L_k} {(\sum_{j=1}^n L_j} )*\sum_{j=1}^nJ_j\]

To illustrate traditional case weighting, consider the following simple example. Imagine we have a court system with just three courts, ten judges and two case types (A and B), as specified in table 2.1. Say we have determined (from detailed time studies etc.) that the weight for case type A is 10, while the weight for case type B is 1. We would then proceed to calculate the combined weighted caseload for each court. Court 1 will have \(10*20 + 1*150 = 350\) weighted cases. Since the total workload for all three courts is 2050 weighted cases, the workload of Court 1 amounts to \(350/2050 = 17\)% of the total workload.

If we want to ensure a fair balance of workload in the court system, a court with 17% of the total workload, like Court 1, should also have 17% of the judges. Since the total number of judges is 10, Court 1 should then have 1,7 judges. However, since we cannot split a judge into decimals,4 we will go for the rounded number instead: Court 1 should have 2 judges.

Table 2.1: Example of Traditional Case Weighting
Weighted cases
Judges Type A Type B Type A Type B Total % Estimated need for judges
Court 1 3 20 150 200 150 350 17% 2
Court 2 3 50 100 500 100 600 29% 3
Court 3 4 10 1000 100 1000 1100 54% 5
All courts 10 80 1250 800 1250 2050 100% 10
* Weight for case type A: 10. Weight for case type B: 1.

All in all, the tradional case weighting exercise will lead us to want to move 1 judge from Court 1 to Court 3 to ensure a better balance of workload among courts.

  1. In addition, separate case weights may be defined for non-judicial staff.

  2. In fact, this is not always the objective. Case weighting is sometimes applied without considering the need to balance workload. This is very unfortunate, especilaly because the aggregated “calculated” need for judges tend always to be much larger than the actual number of judges available. This implies that, unless the total number of judges is vastly increased, not all courts can be assigned the number of judges this version of a case weighting model implies they should have. Some courts may be so “lucky” that their number of judges actually matches the calculated workload, and they may use this as an argument for not having their staff reduced, even if other courts are seriously understaffed. Such a misguided application of case weighting may contribute to sustaining inequality of justice (given that the quality of justice may be perceived as a function of the time judges have available to consider cases).

  3. In fact, it is in some countries possible for courts to share a judge, so that the judge works part-time in both courts. We will not consider this option here, however.