For immediate release: July 29, 2008
For further information contact: Winnie Comfort or Tammy Kendig
New Jersey Judiciary Reduces Backlog, Manages Record Number of Cases
Even with a record number of case filings, the judges and staff of New Jersey's Judiciary achieved a 1 percent reduction in backlogged cases and resolved the highest number of cases in the history of the modern court system. Today's announcement by Judge Philip S. Carchman, acting administrative director of the courts, 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 njcourts.com.
Both the number of cases filed and the number of cases resolved are the highest ever recorded. The Court Management Report for the period July 1, 2007 through June 30, 2008 shows 1,147,870 cases were filed statewide in Superior Court, a 7 percent increase, or 76,799 cases more than the previous court year. During the same time, the courts achieved a 10 percent increase in cases resolved, from 1,054,261 to 1,156,385 cases in court year 2008. On June 30, the total number of pending cases was 225,857, including 199,965 cases in inventory and 25,892 cases in "backlog."
Cases that are not resolved within the time goals the courts have set for themselves are considered to be in backlog. One of the ways that the New Jersey Judiciary continuously seeks to improve its performance is by monitoring the case backlog and by adopting strategies to ensure that as many cases as possible are resolved in a timely manner.
"I have spoken before about the impact that the economy has on the court system, and indeed, filings have grown during the recent downturn," said Judge Carchman. "This report shows that our judges and staff are working harder and doing more to bring timely justice to our citizens," he added.
According to the year-end report, the percentage of active pending cases that were current remained steady at 89 percent. The family division reported that on June 30, nearly 100 percent of the child placement review caseloads were current, or within time goals, and 28 cases were in backlog. In addition, 99 percent of abuse and neglect cases were current, also with 28 cases in backlog at year's end; 96 percent of domestic violence cases were current, with 64 cases in backlog; 93 percent of juvenile/family crisis cases were current, with two cases in backlog, and 93 percent of kinship legal guardianship cases were current, with 11 cases in backlog.
Non-dissolution cases, which involve custody or child support disputes between unmarried couples, are by far the largest portion of the family division caseload. During the court year, the courts received 161,517 new or reopened non-dissolution cases. On June 30, 96 percent of the active pending caseload of non-dissolution cases remained current, with 4 percent, or 452 cases, in backlog. Dissolution or divorce cases also make up a major portion of the family division caseload. During the court year, 67,989 dissolution cases were filed or reopened. On June 30, 95 percent of the active pending caseload of dissolution cases were within time goals for resolution, with 5 percent, or 949 cases, in backlog. Juvenile delinquency cases, which make up another large share of the family caseload, experienced a slight decrease in filings, with 63,811 new or reopened cases being filed during the year. On June 30, 94 percent of the active pending juvenile delinquency caseload were within time goals for resolution, and 6 percent, or 285 cases, were in backlog.
The civil division reported a 5 percent decline in backlogged cases. The majority of cases filed in Superior Court are special civil cases, which are civil cases with damages less than $15,000. Those include landlord/tenant matters, small claims, and contract cases. In court year 2008, the courts received 607,880 special civil filings, a 17 percent increase from the previous year. Even with the increase in filings, the special civil backlog was reduced by 5 percent over the court year, and 98 percent of all special civil cases were within time goals for resolution.
During court year 2007, the backlog of Track 4 civil cases, which are the most complex, rose significantly due to the increase in mass tort cases that remained open beyond the time goal. During court year 2008, the civil division reduced the backlog of Track 4 cases by 12 percent, helping the civil division achieve its overall reduction in backlog.
Criminal division filings declined by 3 percent during the court year, although the backlog of criminal cases rose by 6 percent. At the end of the court year, 7,079 of the 16,943 criminal cases pending resolution were beyond time goals for resolution.
"This annual data is an important tool for us to assess areas where we have been successful in reducing the backlog, to note changes in caseloads that may require further analysis and to identify problem areas that may need to be addressed. As always, our goal is to provide fair, efficient and timely justice for all of our litigants," said Judge Carchman.