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Keywords:

  • Child Welfare;
  • Court Improvement Program;
  • Court Reform;
  • Court Research;
  • Dependency;
  • Evaluation;
  • Judicial Decision Making;
  • Model Courts;
  • One Family–One Judge;
  • Unified Family Court

The one family, one judge model is a recommended “best practice” adopted in jurisdictions across the country. This article reports findings from a survey of professional stakeholders (N = 165) in Baltimore regarding their perception of a recently implemented one family, one judge model in their jurisdiction. Perceptions of the one family, one judge practice are mostly positive; stakeholders believe that it improves the fairness and consistency of decision-making. Stakeholder concerns focused on implementation, scheduling, and familiarity among parties. Based on our findings, we highlight the importance of ongoing efforts to reduce potential bias, to improve scheduling practices, and to increase inter- and intra-agency coordination and communication to ensure that the one family, one judge model lives up to its promise while mitigating potential concerns.

Key Points for the Family Court Community

  • Most stakeholders are satisfied with the one family, one judge docketing as implemented in Baltimore City and believe that it has improved efficiency and decision-making.
  • In planning and implementing one family, one judge docketing, jurisdictions must take into account logistical considerations that can impact the program feasibility, acceptance, and success. These include fiscal resources, local regulations, staffing, and workplace structures.
  • Communication and good relationships among stakeholders and agencies can help facilitate implementation of model court practices such as one family, one judge docketing.
  • Stakeholders voiced mixed concerns regarding the fairness of one family, one judge. Some stakeholders believed that the one family, one judge model potentially or actually exacerbated judicial bias; whereas others believed that the model reduced judicial bias. Understanding these concerns is important in directing future research and practice.