For immediate release: August 1, 2007
For further information contact: Winnie Comfort 609-292-9580
New Jersey Judiciary Releases Annual Statistical Report; Caseloads Remain Current
Nearly 90 percent of all cases before the state's courts are resolved within their respective time goals, today announced Philip S. Carchman, acting administrative director of the courts. His announcement accompanied the release of the Judiciary's year-end statistical report, which has become a critical self-evaluation tool for the state's 15 vicinages. The report is available online at njcourtsonline.com.
The Court Management Report for the period July 1, 2006 through June 30, 2007 shows 1,071,071 cases were filed statewide in Superior Court, an increase of 14,672 from the previous court year. At year's end, there were 232,284 active pending cases, including 206,016 cases in inventory and 26,268 cases in "backlog."
Cases that are not resolved within time goals the courts have set for themselves are considered to be in backlog, and during the past decade the courts have made significant strides in reducing the number of cases in backlog in an effort to ensure that as many cases as possible are resolved in a timely manner.
New Jersey's use of backlog measures as an effective case management tool was the subject of a recent article by John M. Greacen in the Judges' Journal, a national publication for judges produced quarterly by the American Bar Association. The article praises the New Jersey Judiciary for regular and comprehensive statistical reporting to help the courts assess their performance as they strive to provide timely and efficient service to litigants. The Judges' Journal article holds out New Jersey's statewide data collection and reporting process as a model for other states.
"The annual statistical report is an invaluable management tool that enables our judges and staff to analyze our performance and to focus our resources on the most urgent problem areas," said Judge Carchman. "The flexibility we have in our modern court system to target resources where they are most needed is the direct result of the investment we have made in designing and maintaining statewide databases, uniform statistical reporting and comprehensive management reports."
According to the year-end report, the percentage of active pending cases that are current remains steady at 89 percent. However, while the percentage of cases in backlog remains the same, the number of cases in backlog grew by 3,503 cases, or 15 percent. Factors that have affected backlog this year include the increase in court filings, an unusually high number of judicial vacancies and the aging of a group of complex civil cases termed "mass torts." There are 18 case types; of those, only three have more than 1,000 cases in backlog. Six case types have fewer than 100 cases in backlog. In the case types where backlog has shrunk below 100 cases, even small changes in the number of backlogged cases can look significant.
The Family Division has achieved remarkable backlog reductions in recent years, and the Family Division case types continue to remain current. For example, the report indicates that on June 30 nearly 100 percent of child placement review cases were current, with 39 cases in backlog statewide; 99 percent of child abuse and neglect cases were current, with 51 cases in backlog statewide; 96 percent of dissolution (divorce) cases were current, with 767 cases in backlog statewide; 96 percent of non-dissolution cases were current, with 420 cases in backlog statewide; 96 percent of domestic violence caseloads were current, with 64 cases in backlog statewide; 94 percent of juvenile delinquency cases were current, with 352 cases in backlog statewide; and 91 percent of kinship legal guardianship cases were current, with 13 cases in backlog statewide.
The Civil Division also remains largely current. The majority of cases filed with the courts are filed in the Special Civil Part, which includes landlord/tenant cases and small claims cases. That court received 521,287 filings this year, a 4 percent increase from the previous court year. In spite of this increase in filings, 98 percent of the special civil caseload was current on June 30. Filings for other civil cases increased 1 percent from the previous year, from 104,022 cases to 104,740 cases. Still, 85 percent of the civil caseload was current at year's end. The greatest change in civil backlog was a 164 percent increase in the most complex-or Track 4-cases. This increase largely reflects the backlog of mass tort cases.
Criminal filings grew 2 percent to 55,962 cases, as the case type increased for the fourth consecutive year. Since 2003, criminal filings have increased a total of 5 percent. This year backlog in criminal cases grew by 1,080 to 5,793 cases.
The Municipal Courts achieved an 8 percent reduction in backlogged cases. The state's 533 municipal courts received 6,511,813 filings this year, a 1 percent increase from court year 2006. They resolved 6,515,409 cases, also a 1 percent increase from the previous year.
"As in past years, we will use this annual data to assess our performance system-wide and in each of the court divisions, and to devise new strategies for the effective and efficient resolution of cases, thereby continuing our ongoing efforts to maintain and even improve the high quality justice delivered by the New Jersey courts," said Judge Carchman. "Our judges and staff are working harder than ever to address our constantly growing caseload so that we can continue to serve the public in an efficient, effective and timely manner."
The report, which is available online at njcourtsonline.com, includes information by case type for each county in addition to the statewide summary.