We’ve been working on some new data representations for our Problem of Default Part II study, which is now in the field in Boston. This Part II study doesn’t have its own non-intervention control group (meaning, all of the groups we’re evaluating are receiving some sort of intervention). This is because Part I already demonstrated that even limited intervention has a statistically significant effect on defendants’ answer and appearance rates compared with no intervention. Part II seeks to build on that knowledge by testing whether some interventions are more effective than others.
That said, we always like to be as thorough as possible as we design our studies. To that end, before we launched Part II, we did some analysis of existing court case data for all small claims cases filed in 2016 to gather some baseline information. We’ve created four graphs, now live on a new study web page. (If you haven’t seen the study volume tracker, that’s worth a look as well.)
The graphs contain a lot of information, and, if you’re not familiar with statistics or the intricacies of programs available in Massachusetts courts, they might be a little difficult to read.
Before we drill into an example, we have a few notes on the definitions of the different variables. One variable is whether or not a hearing for a case was scheduled on a Lawyer for the Day (LFD) program day. The Massachusetts Lawyer for the Day program is a pro bono legal service that provides some pro-se advising services in some courts on certain days of the week. Exact services and availability varies between courts. Another is whether a defendant fails to appear (FTAs) at a given hearing. The graphs break down data between these two variables at different courts in four different ways:
- If a defendant ever failed to appear (FTA’d) at any hearing that was held
- If a defendant failed to appear at their first hearing that was held
- If the defendant’s first scheduled hearing was scheduled on a day when the Lawyer for the Day (LFD) program was happening at the court and the defendant appeared at that scheduled hearing
- If any of the defendant’s scheduled hearings were scheduled on a day when the LFD program was happening at the court and the defendant appeared at one or more such scheduled hearings
Let’s take a look at an example data point:
In this example, the circled dot is the proportion of study ineligible (noted by color) cases in Cambridge Small Claims Court (y-axis). The dot’s size shows that the number of cases it represents comprises about .4 of the total cases in the court, which in this case would be around 325 cases (.4 of the court’s total number of cases in the sample, 811).
The dot shows us that in almost 25% of the study ineligible cases in Cambridge Small Claims Court, the first hearing was scheduled on a Lawyer for the Day program weekday and the defendant appeared at that hearing.
Our hope is that these graphs, along with the frequently updated study volume information, provide a window into the study’s design and progress as we move forward. Look for more updates on data from this and our other studies in early 2018.
 In Boston Municipal Court (Civil), the defendant FTAs if the defendant does not file an answer or does not appear at the first hearing; the defendant does not FTA if the defendant does both of those things.