BJS: Bureau of Justice Statistics

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Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS)
Home  | Data Collection Detail

Data Collection: Court Statistics Project (CSP)
Status: Active
Frequency: Annually since 1975
Latest data available: 2007

The Court Statistics Project (CSP) provides a systematic means to develop a valid, uniform, and complete statistical database that details the operation of state court systems. It provides high-quality, baseline information on state court structure, jurisdiction, reporting practices, and caseload volume and trends. Effective management and planning at the local, state, and national levels depend on accurate, consistent, and comparable information to assess the business of the state courts, identify trends in litigation, and estimate future levels of demand. The CSP fulfills the vital role of translating diverse state court caseload statistics into a common framework that all states use when establishing their respective goals and policies. Information for the CSP's national caseload databases comes from published and unpublished sources supplied by state court administrators and appellate court clerks.

On This Page

Data Experts

  • Duren Banks, Statistician, Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS)
  • Thomas Cohen, Statistician, Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS)
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    Documentation

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    Methodology

    Information for the national caseload databases comes from published and unpublished sources supplied by state court administrators and appellate court clerks. Published data typically come from official state court annual reports, which vary widely in form and detail. Although constituting the most reliable and valid data available at the state level, they arrive from statistical data filed monthly, quarterly, or annually by numerous local jurisdictions and, in most states, several trial and appellate court systems. Some states either do not publish an annual report or publish only limited caseload statistics for either trial or appellate courts. The Court Statistics Project receives unpublished data from those states in a wide range of forms, including internal management memos, computer-generated output, and the project’s statistical and jurisdictional profiles, which are updated by state court administrative office staff. Extensive telephone contact and follow-up correspondence are used to collect missing data, confirm the accuracy of available data, and determine the legal jurisdiction of each court. Information is also collected concerning the number of judges per court or court system (from annual reports, offices of state court administrators, and appellate court clerks); the state population (based on Bureau of the Census revised estimates); and special characteristics regarding subject matter jurisdiction and court structure. Appendix 2 lists the source of each state’s 2006 caseload statistics.

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    Changes Over Time

    The CSP has evolved since 1975 by providing more consistent definitions of key terms and parameters for counting. The State Court Model Statistical Dictionary (updated version published in 1989) provided the first set of common terminology, definitions, and usage for reporting appellate and trial court caseloads. Terms for reporting data on case disposition methods were provided in the Dictionary and in other project publications. The classification scheme and associated definitions served as a model framework for developing comparable and useful data. Once a set of recommended terms was adopted, the project’s focus shifted to assessing the comparability of caseload data reported by the courts to those terms. It became particularly important to detail the subject matter jurisdiction and methods of counting cases in each state court. Problems related to categorizing and counting cases in the trial and appellate courts were resolved through the development of the 1984 State Trial Court Jurisdiction Guide for Statistical Reporting and the 1984 State Appellate Court Jurisdiction Guide for Statistical Reporting. The State Court Guide to Statistical Reporting (Guide), originally published in 2004, represents the Court Statistics Project's new data reporting format. Building upon the State Court Model Statistical Dictionary, the Guide includes expanded case type classification matrices, definitions for case types that were not included in the original Dictionary, and more detailed manner of disposition categories. The Guide serves as the model reporting framework for developing comparable and useful data.

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    Publications & Products

    The following publications and products were generated by BJS using data from this collection.

    Profiling Felony Cases in the NACM Network Through comparing felony caseloads and trends at the individual State trial court level, this article discusses the similarities and differences existing in felony filing trends among urban trial courts.
      PDF
    Part of the State Court Sentencing of Convicted Felons Series

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    Related Topics

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    Additional Information

    The purpose of Examining the Work of State Courts is to provide a concise, graphically oriented volume that makes state court statistics highly accessible. Examining the Work of State Courts has been designed to be interactive, giving the reader on-line access in its interactive PDF version to information that cannot reasonably be included in the text of the document. The links provided in this format encourage the use of the Web and provide the reader with additional resources that help to facilitate the understanding of the work of state courts. State Court Caseload Statistics is a discrete reference volume, containing structure charts, statewide aggregate caseload data and reporting practices, population trends, and a detailed explanation of the Court Statistics Project methodology. State Court Caseload Statistics is exclusively available in electronic format on the Web at www.courtstatistics.org. The nature of that data also allows taking full advantage of Web publishing to make it more accessible to those who want to obtain and utilize the data, rather than view tables on a printed page. The Caseload Highlights series continues to provide short, periodic reports on specific and significant issues. The Court Statistics Project recognizes that informed judges and court managers want information on a range of policy-relevant topics, and want it in a timely fashion and in a condensed, readable format.

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