MITRE Introduces a Model for Mapping More Efficient Courts

May 2015
Topics: Law, Modeling and Simulation, Systems Modernization, International Relations
MITRE's work to increase the efficiency of U.S. court operations has now caught the attention of the global judicial community. Exhibit A: Our judicial mapping research was on the docket at the Council of Europe’s Commission for the Efficiency of Justice.
Paul Bielski of The MITRE Corporation

Never underestimate the importance of the rule of law.

“If a country doesn't have a functioning legal system, if there's no access to justice, then that country can't have a stable economy and anarchy will prevail,” says Paul Bielski, executive director of the Judiciary Engineering Modernization Center (JEMC). JEMC is the federally funded research and development center that MITRE operates on behalf of the Federal Judiciary. “If there's no way to protect economic investment and intellectual property, the country becomes something of a ‘wild west.’ Establishing effective, efficient, and modern judicial systems is what the international judiciary community is trying to do.”

JEMC's work has evolved over the last few years. Its overall mission is to help the U.S. Federal Judiciary effectively prepare for the future by increasing the efficiency of court operations. Now, an extension of the JEMC—the Center for Judicial Informatics, Science, and Technology, or CJIST—focuses on this bedrock of stable societies worldwide. Their work has already received high praise from a commission charged with increasing the effectiveness of the European court system.

Applying U.S.-focused Research to Global Judicial Challenges

“We’re moving from modernizing the judiciary’s infrastructure to helping address broad-based problems that have an impact on court operations," Bielski says. "Today, we focus on how to apply MITRE research to pressing court challenges—such as docketing, scheduling and e-discovery. As we began shifting from infrastructure modernization to court operations, we engaged with the larger judicial community to learn what they were doing in these areas.”

That community includes academia, state and local courts, vendors, Executive Branch departments and agencies, international and non-governmental agencies involved in promoting the rule of law and access to justice, judicial reform and modernization. “We found that everyone in this community faced the same set of problems as the U.S. Federal Judiciary. When we told the Federal Judiciary what we learned, they asked us to continue to engage with this larger community. That’s why we created a CJIST that deals with these global issues.”

Bielski adds that MITRE has received strong support from the Federal Judiciary for this outreach.

“Our sponsor has encouraged us to do more, as it’s in all the best interest of all countries.” The global focus of the work also complements MITRE’s goals of using partnerships to take on larger national and global challenges.

Because this is a new area for the FFRDC, the JEMC team is not going it alone. “We're expanding internationally by working with partners and intermediaries,” explains Bielski. "We've established relationships with entities such as the World Bank and the Council of Europe. These organizations interface with all their member countries and we, in turn, have just one point of contact. That reduces MITRE’s risks and costs.”

MITRE's work for the World Bank put the company on the radar for another international organization—the Council of Europe, a leading human rights organization comprising 47 member countries. Within the Council is the CEPEJ—the Commission for the Efficiency of Justice—which is looking at how to build efficient and effective judicial systems.

MITRE's Work Expands Beyond Existing European Guidelines

One of the ways CEPEJ is doing this is by developing guidelines for inputs to judicial maps. Judicial mapping involves the geographical distribution of district courts and courts of appeal. MITRE was been working on judicial mapping for some upcoming projects with World Bank countries. When CEPEJ learned about this work, the organization contacted MITRE.

“Our judicial mapping work went further than CEPEJ’s guidelines,” describes Bielski. “CEPEJ looked at the enhancements we made and told us no one else has anything like this. They said it was revolutionary and wanted to learn more.”

The CEPEJ invited MITRE to present at its conference in September 2014 in Strasbourg, France, home of the Council of Europe. Bielski and Brad Brown, MITRE's judicial community portfolio director, presented “A Scientific Approach to Modernizing Judicial Systems.”

CEPEJ had scheduled MITRE to present for one hour, but the discussion ran for nearly three, and conversations continued throughout the two-day conference.

A Model that Works for Judicial Mapping and Beyond

“There was a lot of discussion around how politics will influence judicial mapping and other work MITRE has done for the judicial system,” Bielski says. "There was also a lot of interest in MITRE in general." After the conference, John Stacey, then president of CEPEJ, emailed representatives from all 47 of the member countries to encourage collaboration with MITRE. “MITRE’s efforts to develop this new generation of judicial mapping capability can benefit from collaborative relationships from CEPEJ members. I would expect that MITRE can make important contributions to our knowledge on judicial mapping, as well as specific, useful analysis on judicial systems, reform or modernization efforts. I encourage you to learn more about MITRE,” Stacey wrote.

“This has started opening a lot of new doors for us. We've had a lot of people contact us to follow up,” Bielski says.

Further doors have been opened for MITRE through the International Judicial Relations Committee (IJRC). The IJRC is one of the committees of the Judicial Conference of the United States, which is the policy-making arm of the Federal Judiciary. The committee, which comprises 12 federal judges, works to improve access to justice and the rule of law across the globe. In November 2014, Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain, chair of the IJRC, came to MITRE’s McLean office to learn more about our judicial mapping and international work. Impressed by what he saw, he invited Bielski to present at the committee’s next meeting, which took place in December.

“I spent three days talking about MITRE and have already been invited back to their next meeting in May,” says Bielski. Attendance at the meeting extended far beyond the committee members. Others included representatives from the U.S. Supreme Court, U.S. State Department, the United Nations, the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, among others. “All of these organizations are working on access to justice and the rule of law in some way. We have followed up with about two-thirds of the attendees and are building some good relationships.”

Speaking of building, Bielski adds that the MITRE team purposely built our judicial mapping model as a general-purpose one. The model is a domain-specific application of more general MITRE research area known as "data to decisions." (To learn about another aspect of MITRE's support to the judicial community, see "Making the Case for Expediting Legal Disputes with Computational Law.")

“The model could also be used for schools, transportation systems, and hospitals. So not only are there lots of possibilities across the world, there are lots of possibilities across MITRE to tap into this work for international judiciary systems.”

by Gretchen Pierce

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