Problem-Solving Courts: From Innovation to Institutionalization – Foreword

Michael C. Dorf
Jeffrey Fagan, Columbia Law School


The phenomenal growth of drug courts and other forms of 'problem-solving' courts has followed a pattern that is characteristic of many successful innovations: An individual or small group has or stumbles upon a new idea; the idea is put into practice and appears to work; a small number of other actors adopt the innovation and have similar experiences; if there is great demand for the innovation-for example, because it responds to a widely-perceived crisis or satisfies an institutional need and resolves tensions within organizations that adopt it-the innovation rapidly diffuses through the networks in which the early adopters interact. Eventually, what was originally an innovation becomes institutionalized.