Complex Court Filings Continue to Rise

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September 22, 2015

Complex Court Filings Continue to Rise

Decrease in limited jurisdiction case filings slows


SAN FRANCISCO—Filings in high-workload cases in California’s superior courts—including felonies, probate and mental health cases, and dependency cases—are increasing, according to the Judicial Council’s 2015 Court Statistics Report (CSR). Felony filings increased by 4 percent in fiscal year 2013–14, for example, while filings involving mental health were up 9 percent, probate filings were up 7 percent, and dependency filings were up 4 percent.

“While overall trial court filings are down again this year, the decline has lessened, and we continue to see an increase in the case types that require more staff time and resources to process and adjudicate,” said Justice Douglas Miller, chair of the Judicial Council’s Executive and Planning Committee. “This annual report provides valuable information to all three branches of government, because the filings statistics will help us make decisions on where to devote our limited resources.”

Total state court filings of 7.5 million represent an overall decrease of 3 percent, a much smaller decline than in the previous two years. As in previous years, most of the decline occurred in limited jurisdiction cases—misdemeanors and infractions in the criminal case category, and small claims and limited civil (less than $25,000) in the civil case category.

The CSR provides detailed statewide caseload data for fiscal year 2013–2014 and 10-year trend data on a wide range of court business in the Supreme Court of California, the Courts of Appeal, and the superior courts in the state’s 58 counties. 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.

Article VI, section 6 of the California Constitution requires the Judicial Council to survey the condition of business in the state courts and to report and make recommendations to the Governor and the Legislature.

A snapshot of the court caseload data in the CSR for fiscal year 2013–2014 follows.

Supreme Court*

  • The Supreme Court issued 85 written opinions.
  • Filings totaled 7,907, and dispositions totaled 7,745.
  • Automatic appeals arising out of judgments of death totaled 19 cases, and the court disposed of 26 such appeals by written opinion.
  • The Supreme Court ordered 6 Court of Appeal opinions depublished.

*Since 1996, the California Supreme Court has issued additional workload statistics using a reporting period of September 1 through August 31 of the following year. This time frame best corresponds to the filing of the Supreme Court’s opinions. View the court’s September 1, 2013–August 31, 2014 annual statistics.

Courts of Appeal

  • Total contested matters for the Courts of Appeal totaled 20,198, made up of 13,182 records of appeal and 7,016 original proceedings.
  • Dispositions in the Courts of Appeal totaled 22,172. Of these dispositions, 14,998 were notices of appeals, and 7,171 were original proceedings.
  • Dispositions of appeals by written opinion totaled 9,592, appeals disposed of without written opinion totaled 3,642, and appeals disposed of without a record filed totaled 1,764. Dispositions of original proceedings by written opinion totaled 501, and original proceedings disposed of without written opinion totaled 6,577.
  • Statewide, 8 percent of Court of Appeal majority opinions were published.

Superior Courts

Superior court case filings across all case categories totaled 7,488,900. A total of 9,900 jury trials and 472,763 court trials were recorded across all case types. The following filings totals were recorded by case type:

  • Civil

Unlimited (greater than $25,000) – 193,190
Limited (less than $25,000) – 486,597
Small claims – 155,428

  • Criminal

Felony – 272,610
Misdemeanor – 915,568
Infraction – 4,907,906

  • Family and Juvenile

Marital – 138,968
Other family law – 242,518
Delinquency – 45,824
Dependency – 46,889

  • Other case types:

Civil and criminal appeals – 4,317
Criminal habeas corpus – 7,410
Mental health – 27,377
Probate – 44,298