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New Report on the Landscape of Civil Litigation in State Courts

The National Center for State Courts (NCSC) recently released a report titled, The Landscape of Civil Litigation of State Courts, which examines case characteristics and outcomes for 925,344 civil cases disposed during a one-year interval from courts exercising jurisdiction over civil cases in 10 urban counties in the United States.  These 925,344 cases comprise approximately 5 percent of state civil caseloads nationally.

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 civil caseloads, three-quarters of the judgements 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.

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.  With SJI support (SJI-13-P-201), the NCSC undertook the Landscape study to inform the deliberations of the Conference of Chief Justices (CCJ) Civil Justice Improvements Committee.  The CCJ Civil Justice Improvements Committee is expected to release its final report and recommendations for addressing these challenges in early 2016.