Mass Law Blog

Administrative Office of the Federal Courts’ Annual Report – Your Tax Dollars Well Spent

by | Mar 27, 2009

There are lies, damn lies and statistics. Mark Twain


Recession/depression/readjustment, it matters not, our federal government is committed to keeping statistics. And, it spends a great deal of time, money and effort tracking every statistic imaginable associated with the federal courts. This labor is performed by the Administrative Office of the Federal Courts, and it’s no small task. As far back as ten years ago the Admin Office had a budget of over $50 million (that was the only budget statistic I could find based on a quick search).

Each year the Office issues a detailed statistical report, and this year’s report is over 400 pages long. Most of this is mind-numbing tables and statistics. I suspect that very few people read beyond the summary contained in the first 40 pages, other than to pick out a statistic here and there. Here is a link to the report, but don’t download it unless you’re prepared for a 400 page pdf file almost 7 megabytes in size.

Here are a few statistics that jumped out at me, based on a quick review:

  • Nation-wide, a quarter of a million civil cases are filed in the federal district courts each year, give or take. And, roughly the same number are dismissed, so the number outstanding stays relatively constant from year-to-year. About three thousand cases are filed in the District of Massachusetts and the same number is pending.
    • Nation-wide, about 1,000 were antitrust suits and 9,000 are IP (3,000 patent, copyright, trademark each).
    • About 4400 civil cases went through trial nation-wide in 2008, median time through trial was about 32 months. In D. Mass. the numbers were 81 trials and 27 months.
    • Of the roughly 3,000 cases pending in D. Mass. only about 200, or a little over 6%, have been pending over 3 years.
    • In 2008, nation-wide, about 5,000 civil cases were completed through trial, and of that number about 60% were non-jury trials. In D. Mass the numbers were 126 civil trials, in roughly the same percentages. Of the 126 civil trials in D. Mass only 12 exceeded 10 days in length.
    • The longest civil trials in the nation were 39 days (non-jury trademark trial, D. N.J.) and airplane PI (jury trial, also D. N.J.).
    • 2% of cases pending in 2008 reached trial. However, around 5% of personal injury and employment cases reached trial. Most other categories were well under 2%.