That’s one immediate and important takeaway from the Annual Report of the Director of the U.S. Courts, published today. I shall have more to say about this once I have digested it — but business appears to be booming.
Facing a backlog of more than 60,000 cases that have been pending between five and ten years, Kenya’s judiciary has pledged to resolve more than 5,000 of them by September 28. The selected docket includes civil, criminal, and commercial cases.
It is not clear to me from the story why these 5,000 cases were chosen, or how practical it is to resolve them all so quickly and still do justice to the parties. Perhaps these cases are ripe for decision or administrative closure, and it is primarily a clerical task to clear them. But if they require resolution on the merits, this sort of frantic clearing of the docket is likely to backfire on the court system–especially since the story suggests that the judges won’t even be back from their six-week vacation until mid-September.
I welcome any thoughts in the comments from those more knowledgeable about the current conditions within the Kenyan court system.
One persistent theme on this blog is that courts are entirely dependent on other entities for their judicial staffing, and must scramble when those entities are not responsive to those staffing needs. This article offers yet another data point, discussing the ongoing federal judicial vacancies in Nevada, and the concomitant growth of the federal caseload in that jurisdiction.
Judges in Collin County, Texas are requesting additional resources–in the form of more courts and/or judges–after a surge of case filings in recent years. The eleven district judges in the county received more than 2100 new cases each in the past year, and that number is expected to increase.
As the Dallas Morning News summarizes:
Based on the current caseload, judges who want to keep up can spend no more than 53 minutes on each case and must dispose of nine cases a day.
But that’s not realistic. A hearing just for temporary orders in a divorce case takes about an hour, the judges said. Spending three days on a trial means having to find the equivalent of 26 other cases that require no time.
Two very different programs with the same goal of keeping people out of court were announced in North Carolina this week.
Durham County has one of the state’s highest levels of eviction filings, with approximately 900 cases filed each month. Eviction cases are stressful for tenants and costly for landlords. A new program co-sponsored by Legal Aid of North Carolina, Duke University’s Civil Justice Clinic, and the Durham County Department of Social Services is aiming to reduce eviction filings by guiding affected tenants to legal and financial assistance programs. The hope is that tenants will be able to remain in their homes, landlords will be paid the rent owed, and the courts will not be clogged with cases that might well be amenable to extrajudicial resolution.
In Buncombe County, local prosecutors have developed their own program to reduce the need for drivers to come to court to challenge or pay speeding tickets. Drivers caught going 15 miles or less over the speed limit would have the option of paying their fine or even negotiating for reduced points online. The district attorney behind the program estimated that 2000 people per day crowd the courthouse to appear before a magistrate for speeding fines.
Just yesterday I noted the impact of increased case filings on state courts in Washington. The State of Minnesota has also recently experienced significant increases in filings, especially in major criminal cases and child protection cases. In response, the Minnesota legislature has authorized two new judgeships to help alleviate the burden.
The courts helped themselves in this instance by keeping careful statistics on caseload growth, which added meaningful support to their request for new judges.
It is no particular surprise that the growth of electronic filing in state and federal courts would lead to a diminution in the need for physical couriers. But this article offers some nice color into how the system has changed, and how remaining courier services stay on their feet (or bikes, as the case may be).