Contact:  Sandy Adkins
Communications Specialist
National Center for State Courts
757.259.1515

 

New NCSC report: State courts face record-breaking caseloads

Williamsburg, Va. (Dec. 8, 2010) — When state legislatures come back to session in January, virtually all will be looking for ways to further cut state budgets. At the same time, state courts — where more than 95 percent of all cases are filed in the United States — are grappling with the largest caseload levels they’ve ever faced amid mandatory furloughs, closed courthouses, and reduced hours. 

According to just-released data from the National Center for State Courts (NCSC), a record 106 million cases were filed in state trial courts in 2008, a 12 percent increase from 1999. The data, which is the most recent available on state court caseloads nationwide, is included in the latest edition of "Examining the Work of State Courts" from the Court Statistics Project, a joint effort of the Conference of State Court Administrators, Bureau of Justice Statistics, and NCSC.

Highlights from the free publication include the following:

  • Civil cases — likely spurred by the faltering economy — increased by 1.3 million, or 7 percent, in 2008, and are up 29 percent since 1999.
  • Domestic relations and criminal caseloads held steady in 2008, while juvenile caseloads actually declined by 5 percent.
  • The 2.2 percent increase in reported traffic and ordinance violations cases equaled that of the overall caseload increase, illustrating the significant impact that the 57.5 million traffic cases filed in 2008 had on the overall caseload total.

The following table shows the number of cases filed in the nation’s state courts in the last 10 years.   
 

Year

Civil

Domestic

Criminal

Juvenile

Traffic

Total

2008

19,414,293

5,709,831

21,264,621

2,083,962

57,547,669

106,020,376

2007

18,098,660

5,681,114

21,435,054

2,155,175

56,286,938

103,656,941

2006

17,299,304

5,827,035

21,598,506

2,143,334

55,571,059

102,439,238

2005

16,710,679

5,775,314

20,826,547

2,125,812

55,316,422

100,754,774

2004

16,886,162

5,685,907

20,625,278

2,147,194

54,697,016

100,041,557

2003

17,157,947

5,601,780

20,610,676

2,118,614

54,743,291

100,232,308

2002

16,341,962

5,786,352

19,776,764

2,093,143

54,510,843

98,509,064

2001

15,771,247

5,502,313

19,046,402

2,155,742

53,069,167

95,544,871

2000

15,253,159

5,424,272

19,328,857

2,174,671

53,772,764

95,953,723

1999

15,030,169

5,286,843

19,451,419

2,176,896

52,924,066

94,869,393

The Court Statistics Project is a joint project of the Conference of State Court Administrators, the Bureau of Justice Statistics, and the National Center for State Courts, and is supported by grants awarded by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. Points of view are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice. Additional information on the Court Statistics Project is available at www.courtstatistics.org.

 

The NCSC Backgrounder is designed to provide the media with statistics and facts related to current issues of interest.

The National Center for State Courts, headquartered in Williamsburg, Va., is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the administration of justice by providing leadership and service to the state courts. Founded in 1971 by the Conference of Chief Justices and Chief Justice of the United States Warren E. Burger, NCSC provides education, training, technology, management, and research services to the nation's state courts.