IAALS, the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System at the University of Denver, announced today that it released its new The Past and Future of State Court Civil Filings report. This report provides important new insights into long-term filing trends and areas where courts may need resource shifts, like declining tort and small claims cases and increasing debt-collection cases. Building off a review of historical events, IAALS also developed a framework around the numerous factors that may influence filings, which can further guide analysis.
In 2022, the World Justice Index ranked the United States 115 out of 140 countries as to whether people can access and afford civil justice. With 66 percent of the population experiencing at least one legal issue over a four-year period, according to IAALS’ US Justice Needs study, there is significant work to do to improve access to justice. Court systems are among those sources of help that improve the chances of resolution. By focusing on state court filings over time, The Past and Future of State Court Civil Filings aims to provide additional insights into the specific role that courts have played in resolving cases, how that role might be changing, and the factors that are expected to continue to influence the filing of cases in our courts going forward.
“Historically, it’s been accepted that state court case filings climb over time in step with population growth, which has informed court planning for buildings, staff, judges, and other resources. More recently, however, courts saw a decline in filings, now followed by fluctuation stemming from the pandemic,” says IAALS CEO Brittany Kauffman. “Courts need a better understanding of what types of cases are being brought before them—and in what numbers—so that planning and policymaking can respond accordingly.”
To bring more clarity and guidance, this report presents a multifaceted study that explores civil case filings over a long timeframe—16 to 41 years—in four states: California, Minnesota, Ohio, and Texas. While it is critical to look at filings in the short term given the current recent challenges of the pandemic, this longer view of filings challenges us to think more deeply about changes over time, influencing factors, and takeaways for planning, policymaking, and reform efforts.