Paula Hannaford-Agor
Director, NCSC Center for Jury Studies
National Center for State Courts

NCSC releases report on The Landscape of Civil Litigation in State Courts

Study shows dramatic changes of civil caseloads over past 20 years

Williamsburg, Va. (November 11, 2015) — The National Center for State Courts (NCSC) has released a report on The Landscape of Civil Litigation of State Courts, which examines case characteristics and outcomes for  civil cases disposed during a one-year interval from all courts exercising jurisdiction over civil cases in 10 urban counties in the United States.  

Among the report’s key findings: 

  • More than half of the Landscape cases were low-value debt collection, landlord/tenant, and small claims cases.  
  • For the entire civil caseloads, three-quarters of the judgments entered were $5,200 or less.  
  • Most cases were resolved through an administrative process rather than an adversarial proceeding.  
  • At least one party was self-represented in more than three-quarters of the cases.  
  • Approximately five percent of civil cases filed nationally in state courts each year.

“The findings offer a dramatically changed picture of civil caseloads compared both to caseloads of two decades ago and to perceptions held by many civil trial lawyers and judges,” states Mary C. McQueen, president of the National Center for State Courts.

Landscape is the first significant multi-jurisdiction study of civil caseloads since the 1992 Civil Justice Survey of State Courts, and is more comprehensive than the 1992 study insofar that it examines the entire civil caseload, rather than just cases filed in general jurisdiction courts.

NCSC undertook the Landscape study to inform the deliberations of the CCJ Civil Justice Improvements Committee. The CCJ Civil Justice Improvements Committee is expected to release its report and recommendations concerning empirically-tested best practices for addressing these challenges in early 2016.

The National Center for State Courts, headquartered in Williamsburg, Va., is a nonprofit court reform 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.


National Center for State Courts, 300 Newport Avenue, Williamsburg, VA  23185-4147