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Examining the Work of State Courts, 2006: A National Perspective From the Court Statistics Project

NCJ Number
Robert C. LaFountain, Richard Y. Schauffler, Shauna M. Strickland, William E. Raftery, Chantal G. Bromage
Date Published
100 pages
This report presents data on State court caseload trends for 1996-2005, with caseload trends distinguished by civil, criminal, domestic-relations, juvenile, and traffic/ordinance violation cases.
The data show that aggregate incoming State trial court caseloads--the sum of newly filed, reopened, and reactivated cases--increased slightly in 2005, exceeding 100 million cases for only the second time in the last 10 years. The majority of these cases (55 percent) were noncriminal traffic and ordinance violations that, taken individually, had little impact on the workload of State courts; however, the large number of these cases caused a significant drain on State court resources. The more resource-intensive categories of criminal, civil, domestic-relations, and juvenile cases, although fewer in number than traffic/ordinance violation cases, presented a considerable caseload at a combined 45.3 million cases. The total number of incoming caseloads for State courts over the 10-year period of 1996-2005 was 75 million cases; 50 million were processed by courts of limited jurisdiction in 35 States, and 25 million were processed by unified/general jurisdiction courts in 45 States. The courts of limited jurisdiction saw a 13-percent increase in caseloads over the 10-year period, and the unified/general jurisdiction courts experienced a 4-percent increase in caseloads over this period. Incoming civil caseloads increased modestly over the 10 years, and the overall domestic-relations trend was relatively flat from 1996 through 2005. The increase in felony caseloads apparently paralleled the continuing sharp increase in arrests of adults for drug crimes; trends for serious and violent crimes have been flat or slightly declining in recent years. Total incoming juvenile caseloads declined 7 percent over the 10 years, and incoming traffic/ordinance violations caseloads increased 20 percent. Numerous tables and figures and appended index of States included in Section Graphics, Court Statistics Project methodology, State court caseload statistics (2006), and CourTools