Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Judicial Council Says Trial Court Caseload Over 10 Million
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Statewide filings in the California superior courts recently topped 10 million, resulting in a net increase of 7 percent from the last fiscal year and a 20 percent increase over the past decade, according to a report released yesterday by the Judicial Council.
The council released the numbers in its 2010 Court Statistics Report, which provided detailed statewide caseload data for fiscal year 2008–2009 and 10-year trend data on the Supreme Court, the Courts of Appeal, and superior courts in the state’s 58 counties.
The report precedes the Supreme Court’s annual workload statistics report, which is expected to become available early next month. Since 1996, the Supreme Court has issued workload statistics using a reporting period of Sept. 1 through Aug. 31.
Comprehensive county-level data for the most recent fiscal year are published in the online version of the report, along with a summary of the major filings trends, on the California Courts website.
The council issued the report pursuant to Art. VI, Sec. 6 of the California Constitution, which requires it to survey the condition of business in the state courts and to report and make recommendations to the governor and the Legislature.
According to the report, each of the three major case categories—civil, criminal, family and juvenile—experienced growth in filings over the past fiscal year, but not all case types within the three categories saw increased filings. Total civil filings rose by 11 percent over the prior year, while criminal filings rose by 7 percent, and family and juvenile filings rose by 1 percent.
The growth in civil filings—excluding dissolution of marriage and family law petitions—continued a recent upward trend after a longer-term trend of flat and declining civil filings.
Unlimited civil filings grew by more than 17 percent to a total of 212,289 in the 2009 fiscal year, the highest point in the past 10 years, while limited civil filings increased by almost 14 percent to a total of 783,863. The council said the increase in both was driven by non-tort cases.
Criminal filings resumed a long-term trend of growth over the past 10 years, increasing by 7 percent in the 2009 fiscal year to a total of 8.36 million. Although the number of felony filings declined by 4 percent, marking the second straight year of lower filings after a decade of growth, felony jury trials were up by 14 percent.
Among criminal misdemeanor and infractions cases, the traffic component of each increased last year while the non-traffic component declined. Overall, courts experienced a net decline of 3 percent in the total number of misdemeanors filed in the last fiscal year, but misdemeanor jury trials increased by 10 percent.
The council said strong growth in traffic filings fueled an overall increase of 10 percent in criminal infractions over the past fiscal year.
The small increase in family and juvenile filings last fiscal year was driven entirely by family law cases, as petitions for divorce and dissolution grew by 1 percent to 153,206, and domestic violence restraining orders, adoption and paternity petitions, and Department of Child Support Services petitions for the enforcement of child support orders increased by 5 percent, reversing a slight downward trend over the past decade.
Both juvenile delinquency and juvenile dependency filings decreased, falling by more than 7 percent to 98,431 after a slow and gradual increase over the past five years. The recent decrease is consistent with a national trend, the council said, but the number of filings is still 4 percent higher than it was five years ago.
Juvenile dependency filings have remained relatively flat over the past decade, but decreased by 5 percent to 39,529 in the last fiscal year.
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