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Creating an Intermediate Appellate Court - Does It Reduce the Caseload of a State's Highest Court?

NCJ Number
Judicature Volume: 64 Issue: 2 Dated: (August 1980) Pages: 74-84
V E Flango; N F Blair
Date Published
11 pages
The consequences of introducing an intermediate appellate court into the existing judicial system are examined through analysis of court data from seven States which have instituted intermediate courts.
The establishment of an intermediate appellate court is usually justified on the grounds that it will reduce the number of appeals going to the State court of last resort and thereby reduce delays at this level; it will permit more litigants to appeal; and it will reduce the inconvenience of traveling long distances if the intermediate appellate court sits in several locations. To evaluate the ramifications of intermediate court establishment, time-series data from the appellate courts of Arizona, Colorado, Kentucky, Maryland, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington, compiled for 1958, were analyzed. It is concluded that case filings and case processing time were reduced in the courts of last resort in the years immediately following establishment of intermediate appellate courts. However, this finding represents an interruption of the trend toward increasing caseloads in the courts of last resort. Unless other measures were taken, such as increasing the size or jurisdiction of the intermediate appellate court, the caseloads of the courts of last resort soon reached the same volume they would have reached if the intermediate court had not been created. The establishment of the intermediate court, in some instances, seems to encourage more initial appeals. Regardless of the increase in filings, the number of opinions written by State courts of last resort remained relatively constant before and after creation of the intermediate court. Although it may not be effective as a mechanism to relieve the highest State court of case volume, the intermediate appellate court does enable more litigants to obtain at least one appeal from a trial court decision, and should be justified on the grounds of enabling increased participation in the judicial system. Footnotes and graphs are included.