U.S. Attorneys:

Better Models Can Reduce Resource Disparities Among Offices

GGD-91-39: Published: Mar 6, 1991. Publicly Released: Mar 18, 1991.

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Norman J. Rabkin
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the Department of Justice's (DOJ) process for allocating attorneys among the 94 U.S. Attorney offices.

GAO found that: (1) between 1980 and 1989, the number of criminal matters and cases U.S. Attorneys handled increased by 36 percent, and the number of civil matters and cases increased by about 7 percent; (2) the U.S. Attorneys' offices' time used in processing criminal and civil matters increased by 56 percent, from 1,694 attorney work years in 1980, to 2,650 attorney work years in 1989; (3) the Executive Office of U.S. Attorneys' process to allocate new positions did not adequately account for the complexity of case loads, did not adequately measure the work done by different offices, and used the number of judges as a predictor of the number of attorneys; (4) a GAO-developed work-load model suggested that staffing disparities existed among the U.S. Attorneys' offices; (5) for fiscal year 1989, the model determined that 44 offices spent significantly less attorney time than the model predicted for their criminal work loads and that 22 offices used significantly more time than predicted; (6) for the civil work load, there were 35 offices that took less time than predicted for their work loads and 37 that took more time than predicted; and (7) the allocation model showed a high level of agreement with the actual DOJ allocations but differed substantially for some offices.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The Attorney General has formed a working group to develop a new staffing model for allocating future positions to U.S. Attorneys' Offices. The model will rely on crime indicators external to the U.S. Attorneys' Offices to the greatest extent possible. For example, indicators of tax fraud in a U.S. Attorney district would include the amounts of collections and refunds, and indicators of the presence of immigration crime would include the number of border crossings and estimates of the illegal alien population.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should direct the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys to implement a quantitative work-load model for gauging the work loads of U.S. Attorney offices that is sensitive to variations in the time requirements of different types of cases.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: A new model for resource allocation is being developed. It takes into account factors in addition to those identified by GAO in its 1991 report.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should direct the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys to adopt a resource allocation model that responds to resource disparities among U.S. Attorney offices identified by the work-load model and can be used in conjunction with judgmental factors to allocate additional attorney positions.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice


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