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March 2019 Civil Justice Reform Act

The consolidated Civil Justice Reform Act (CJRA) report contains aggregate data on motions pending, bench trials submitted, bankruptcy appeals, Social Security appeal cases each pending more than six months, and civil cases pending more than three years.

Introduction

The Civil Justice Reform Act of 1990 (CJRA) requires the Director of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts (AO), under 28 U.S.C. § 476, to prepare a semiannual report showing, by U.S. district judge and U.S. magistrate judge, all motions pending more than six months, all bench trials that have remained undecided more than six months, and all civil cases pending more than three years. In accordance with the policy of the Judicial Conference of the United States, this report also presents data on bankruptcy appeals pending more than six months (Rpt. of Proc. of JCUS, Mar. 10, 1998, at 11) and Social Security appeals pending more than six months (Rpt. of Proc. of JCUS, Sept. 15, 1998, at 63). The reporting requirements under the CJRA are designed to help reduce both costs and delays in civil litigation in the district courts. The information also may be used to evaluate demands on the district courts’ resources.

The CJRA report is prepared through the use of the Case Management/Electronic Case Files (CM/ECF) system. As a result, pending motions, bench trials, three-year-old cases, bankruptcy appeals, and Social Security appeals are reported in a standardized and consistent fashion.

Appendix A provides data for each district judge and magistrate judge on motions pending, bench trials submitted, cases pending more than three years, bankruptcy appeals pending, and Social Security appeals pending. The CJRA requires the AO Director to establish uniform standards for determining when a motion, bench trial, case, or bankruptcy appeal is “pending”; Appendix B lists these definitions.

Along with the semiannual consolidated national report, the AO prepares a supplemental report, A Report on Motions Pending for More Than Six Months, Bench Trials Submitted for More Than Six Months, Civil Cases Pending Three Years or More, Bankruptcy Appeals Pending for More Than Six Months, and Social Security Appeals Pending for More Than Six Months, that provides detailed information regarding the individual cases, motions, bench trials, and appeals pending in the district courts. This document is available to the public through the district courts, the executive offices of the U.S. courts of appeals, and the AO.

Report Findings

The information in this report presents what may best be described as a “snapshot” of motions pending more than six months, bench trials submitted more than six months, civil cases pending more than three years, bankruptcy appeals pending more than six months, and Social Security appeals pending more than six months on March 31, 2019. District judge and magistrate judge caseloads change constantly, so many of the matters pending on March 31, 2019, have since been decided or transferred to other judges. Therefore, persons using reports of this type should take into account the state of change in the district courts’ pending caseloads. Although the information provided in this report pertains to the pending civil caseload of district judges and magistrate judges, readers should take into consideration the overall case processing demands placed on the courts by both civil and criminal matters. An accurate assessment of the demands placed on the district courts also requires consideration of numerous factors, including vacant judgeships and the effects of all cases making up each court’s caseload.

Methodology

This national report is designed to place special emphasis on detailed analyses that are extracted from the national CM/ECF system. Each district court is required to analyze the reasons for delays in disposing of motions, bench trials, three-year-old cases, bankruptcy appeals, and Social Security appeals. Judges use status codes to provide reasons for delays in these matters (see Appendix C). The nature of suit codes for types of civil litigation appear in Appendix D. More specific information about cases pending, motions pending, bench trials submitted, bankruptcy appeals pending, and Social Security appeals pending on September 30, 2018, and March 31, 2019, appears in Tables 1-4.

Number of Motions Pending on March 31, 2019

The total number of motions pending more than six months for all district judges and magistrate judges increased by 167 motions from 5,353 on September 30, 2018, to 5,520 on March 31, 2019. Ninety-three percent of all motions pending were before district judges, and seven percent were before magistrate judges.

For this CJRA report, eight circuits reported increases in pending motions, and four circuits reported decreases. The largest growth in pending motions occurred in the Sixth Circuit (up 120 motions), Eleventh Circuit (up 72 motions), and Second Circuit (up 67 motions). Within these circuits, the following districts reported the largest increases in pending motions (in many types of civil cases): the Western District of Kentucky (up 92 motions), Southern District of Ohio (up 80 motions), and Eastern District of Michigan (up 28 motions).

Primary Reasons for Delays in Pending Motions. District courts provided one or more status codes to indicate primary reasons for delays for each of the 5,520 pending motions reported for March 31, 2019. The status codes cited most often were opinion/decision in draft (1,755 motions), heavy criminal and civil caseload (1,084 motions), complexity of case (1,053 motions), voluminous briefs/transcripts to be read (812 motions), referred to magistrate judge (329 motions), and awaiting materials (293 motions).

Primary Nature of Suit Codes in Pending Motions. The primary nature of suit codes provided most often by district courts for pending motions were civil rights (1,276 motions), contract (879 motions), prisoner petitions (872 motions), other statutory actions (405 motions), labor (354 motions), and intellectual property rights (223 motions).

Number of Bench Trials Submitted Pending on March 31, 2019

The total number of bench trials pending more than six months for all district judges and magistrate judges fell by 15 bench trials to 48 on March 31, 2019. Ninety percent of all bench trials submitted were before district judges, and 10 percent were before magistrate judges. Six of the 12 circuits reported decreases in pending bench trials, 2 circuits had increases in pending bench trials, and the totals for 4 circuits remained unchanged.

Primary Reasons for Delays in Pending Bench Trials. District courts provided one or more status codes to indicate the primary reasons for delays for each of the 48 pending bench trials reported for March 31, 2019. The status codes cited most often were opinion/decision in draft (25 trials), complexity of case (14 trials), voluminous briefs/transcripts to be read (10 trials), heavy criminal and civil caseload (6 trials), and awaiting materials (5 trials).

Primary Nature of Suit Codes in Pending Bench Trials. The primary nature of suit codes provided most often for pending bench trials were contract (12 trials), labor (8 trials), civil rights (4 trials), and other statutory actions (4 trials).

Number of Bankruptcy Appeals Pending on March 31, 2019

Bankruptcy appeals pending more than six months decreased 10 percent from 129 on September 30, 2018, to 116 on March 31, 2019. All pending bankruptcy appeals were reported by district judges. Reductions occurred in 7 of the 12 circuits, 3 circuits had increases, and totals in 2 circuits remained unchanged. Four circuits accounted for 79 percent of all pending bankruptcy appeals: the Ninth Circuit (31 appeals), Fifth Circuit (30 appeals), Third Circuit (17 appeals), and Second Circuit (14 appeals).

Primary Reasons for Delays in Pending Bankruptcy Appeals. District courts provided one or more status codes to indicate reasons for delays for each of the 116 pending bankruptcy appeals reported for March 31, 2019. The status codes cited most often were opinion/decision in draft (34 appeals), heavy criminal and civil caseload (25 appeals), voluminous briefs/transcripts to be read (18 appeals), complexity of case (17 appeals), awaiting materials (15 appeals), and recently received from the calendar of another judge (8 appeals).

Number of Social Security Appeals on March 31, 2019

Social Security appeals pending more than six months grew nearly 4 percent from 822 on September 30, 2018, to 854 on March 31, 2019. District judges reported 67 percent of these appeals; magistrate judges reported 33 percent. Six of the 12 circuits reported increases, 5 had decreases, and 1 reported that its total remained unchanged. The largest growth in pending Social Security appeals occurred in the Second Circuit (up 33 appeals), Ninth Circuit (up 21 appeals), Sixth Circuit (up 9 appeals), Eighth Circuit (up 5 appeals) and Fourth Circuit (up 5 appeals).

Primary Reasons for Delays in Pending Social Security Appeals. District courts provided one or more status codes to indicate reasons for delays for all 854 pending Social Security appeals reported for March 31, 2019. The status codes cited most often were opinion/decision in draft (197 appeals), heavy criminal and civil caseload (167 cases), recently received from the calendar of another judge (146 appeals), voluminous briefs/transcripts to be read (130 appeals), referred to magistrate judge (93 appeals), recently received from the magistrate judge on recommendation (49 appeals), and demands of criminal docket (41 appeals).

Primary Nature of Suit Codes in Pending Social Security Appeals. Fifty-six percent of pending Social Security appeals (481 appeals) involved disability insurance, 39 percent (330 appeals) addressed supplemental security income, and 5 percent (42 appeals) were related to retirement and survivors’ benefits.

Number of Civil Cases Pending on March 31, 2019

The number of civil cases pending more than three years decreased 20 percent (down 10,434 cases) from 50,969 on September 30, 2018, to 40,535 on March 31, 2019. District judges reported 99 percent of all pending three-year-old cases, and magistrate judges reported the remaining 1 percent. Three-year-old cases declined in 5 of the 12 circuits and grew in 7 circuits. The largest reduction occurred in the Fourth Circuit, which had 15,053 fewer pending cases, most of them part of multidistrict litigation involving pelvic support system products. The second-largest reduction occurred in the First Circuit, which had 1,123 fewer pending cases, most of them part of multidistrict litigation addressing healthcare/pharmaceutical products.

Primary Reasons for Delays in Pending Civil Cases. District courts provided one or more status codes to indicate reasons for delays for all 40,535 civil cases reported for March 31, 2019. The status codes cited most often were multidistrict litigation (32,705 cases), complexity of case (2,202 cases), settlement pending (2,008 cases), Extensive discovery involved (1,016 cases), awaiting materials (1,010 cases), trial scheduled (871 cases), referred to magistrate judge (865 cases), opinion/decision in draft (765 cases), and set for status conference (760 cases).

Primary Nature of Suit Codes in Pending Civil Cases. The primary nature of suit codes given most often by district courts for pending civil cases were personal injury/product liability (17,431 cases), health care/pharmaceutical (11,684 cases), prisoner petitions (2,191 petitions), civil rights (1,529 cases), contract (1,078 cases), other statutory actions (932 cases), and antitrust (833 cases).

Title Publication Table Number Reporting Period Report Name
Total Matters Pending, by Type of Matter and Type of Judge CJRA 1 March 31, 2019 Civil Justice Reform Act (CJRA) Download Table CJRA 1— Civil Justice Reform Act (CJRA) (March 31, 2019) (pdf, 60.37 KB)
Total Pending Matters, by Type of Matter and Circuit CJRA 2 March 31, 2019 Civil Justice Reform Act (CJRA) Download Table CJRA 2— Civil Justice Reform Act (CJRA) (March 31, 2019) (pdf, 81.46 KB)
Total Matters Pending, by Type of Matter and Circuit CJRA 3 March 31, 2019 Civil Justice Reform Act (CJRA) Download Table CJRA 3— Civil Justice Reform Act (CJRA) (March 31, 2019) (pdf, 87.36 KB)
Average Number of Cases and Motions Pending, by Circuit CJRA 4 March 31, 2019 Civil Justice Reform Act (CJRA) Download Table CJRA 4— Civil Justice Reform Act (CJRA) (March 31, 2019) (pdf, 53.42 KB)
Civil Justice Reform Act (CJRA) Appendices A,B,C,D March 31, 2019 Civil Justice Reform Act (CJRA) Download Table N/A— Civil Justice Reform Act (CJRA) (March 31, 2019) (pdf, 2.01 MB)
Detailed Reports
Title Publication Table Number Reporting Period Report Name
Civil Cases Pending More Than Three Years CJRA 7 March 31, 2019 Civil Justice Reform Act (CJRA) Download Table CJRA 7—Detailed Reports Civil Justice Reform Act (CJRA) (March 31, 2019) (pdf, 16.49 MB)
Motions Pending More Than Six Months CJRA 8 March 31, 2019 Civil Justice Reform Act (CJRA) Download Table CJRA 8—Detailed Reports Civil Justice Reform Act (CJRA) (March 31, 2019) (pdf, 5.74 MB)
Bench Trials Submitted More Than Six Months CJRA 9 March 31, 2019 Civil Justice Reform Act (CJRA) Download Table CJRA 9—Detailed Reports Civil Justice Reform Act (CJRA) (March 31, 2019) (pdf, 2.79 MB)
Bankruptcy Appeals Pending More Than Six Months CJRA 10 March 31, 2019 Civil Justice Reform Act (CJRA) Download Table CJRA 10—Detailed Reports Civil Justice Reform Act (CJRA) (March 31, 2019) (pdf, 2.65 MB)
Social Security Appeals Pending More Than Six Months CJRA 11 March 31, 2019 Civil Justice Reform Act (CJRA) Download Table CJRA 11—Detailed Reports Civil Justice Reform Act (CJRA) (March 31, 2019) (pdf, 2.83 MB)