wednesday, 16 march of 2016

In Federal Courts, Fewer Lawsuits But a Longer Wait

Lawsuits filed in federal court declined about 6% in fiscal 2015, but the number of pending civil cases continued to grow, albeit more slowly, according to data released by Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts on Tuesday.

The 341,813 pending civil cases represented a little more than a 1% increase over the previous year, while the number of cases filed decreased to 279,036 in 2015 from 295,310 in 2014.

The judicial backlog has grown about 28% since 2011. The pending cases included 34,244 matters that had been around for at least three years, 14% more than in fiscal 2014, according to the data.

Product-liability lawsuits involving pharmaceuticals and health care accounted for most of the increase in long-lingering cases. At the end of fiscal 2014, 19 product-liability cases of that kind had been pending for three years or more. That number had grown to 2,638 cases by the end of fiscal 2015.

Meanwhile, criminal filings slipped in 2015 to 80,069 from 81,226. They have fallen 22% since 2011.

The flow of criminal cases tends to impact the speed with which courts dispose of civil cases. The Sixth Amendment right to a “speedy” trial in criminal cases often results in the displacement or delay of civil disputes, creating a backlog.

Major shifts in the population and the politics of judicial nominations have also contributed.

The escalating obstruction and delay of judicial nominees over the past three decades reached a critical point in 2013, amid a Republican blockade of President Obama’s picks to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

The Democratic-controlled Senate changed the chamber rules so that a simple majority or senators could cut off debate on a nominees rather than 60 of them. The following year, President Obama and the Democratic-controlled Senate reduced the number of vacancies on the lower federal courts from 92 to 44.

The number has been inching up since Republicans took control of the Senate in 2015 and now stands at 73, including 64 empty seats on the federal trial courts and nine on the federal courts of appeals.

(Published by The Wall Street Journal - March 15, 2016)

latest top stories

subscribe |  contact us |  sponsors |  migalhas in portuguese |  migalhas latinoamérica