Court Culture as an Explanation of Case Processing Efficiency: An Exploratory Study of the Applicability of Leverick and Duff’s Typology of Court Culture to Bail Courts in Ontario

Sarah E. Heath

In June 2008 the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General announced their Justice on Target strategy to reduce the amount of time and number of appearances required to resolve a case in the Ontario criminal court system. The premise put forth by this strategy suggested that the structural and administrative changes implemented by the Ministry would elicit greater court efficiency. However, this belief is in contradiction to recent research on court delay which suggests that such changes are only effective when there is a court culture in place that supports such practices. This new literature emphasizes the central importance of a local informal discretionary system of expectations, norms and relationships on the efficiency of case processing. This thesis examines the possible relationship between court culture and court efficiency. Through a comparison of two Eastern Ontario bail courts, this study explores a number of cultural characteristics of both an efficient and less inefficient court that have been identified in previous research on court culture, most notably Leverick & Duff’s (2002) analysis of passive and proactive Scottish magistrate courts. In particular, detailed qualitative and quantitative data were gathered for this purpose through semi-structured interviews with key stakeholders. The study found that the efficient court had more proactive indicators and the inefficient court had more passive indicators. This finding suggests that courts of varying efficiency have distinct cultures and that Leverick & Duff’s passive-proactive typology is an effective tool for measuring court culture in Ontario bail courts.