Principal Investigator(s): Shughart, William F. II, University of Mississippi. Department of Economics; Karahan, Gökhan R., Nicholls State University, Department of Finance and Economics
This study analyzed the determinants of the explosion in the caseload of the United States federal district courts that commenced in 1960. First, the study sought to provide forecasts of future demands on the federal courts while reducing forecasting errors by taking account of the time series properties of the case data. The researchers constructed a comprehensive dataset based on annual aggregated civil and criminal case volumes of individual federal district courts spanning the period 1904-1998, for a total of 95 yearly observations. Secondly, the study specified and estimated multivariate econometric models of the determinants of civil case filings over time and across geographic space using panel data techniques. These empirical models were run on three alternative datasets consisting of observations on statewide, districtwide, and circuitwide United States civil, private civil, and total civil cases per capita, over the period 1960 to 1998. The empirical models included standard socioeconomic variables, such as income, population density, and race, along with variables that controlled for fixed effects associated with the courts' geographic location. The study also addressed the pressing issue of allocating judgeships across circuits and districts. Variables include total civil and criminal cases, percentage of minority population, unemployment rate, percentage of drug and immigration cases, annual unweighted and weighted total case filings per judge, and annual civil and criminal case filings per judge.
These data are freely available.
Shughart, William F. II, and Gökhan R. Karahan. Determinants of Case Growth in Federal District Courts in the United States, 1904-2002. ICPSR03987-v1. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2009-04-06. doi:10.3886/ICPSR03987.v1
Persistent URL: http://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR03987.v1
This study was funded by:
- United States Department of Justice. Office of Justice Programs. National Institute of Justice (2000-IJ-CX-0042)
Scope of Study
Smallest Geographic Unit: federal court districts
Geographic Coverage: United States
Date of Collection:
Unit of Observation: Part 1: Court cases by year, Parts 2, 6, and 7: Federal court district by year, Part 3: Federal court circuit by year, Parts 4 and 5: State by year, Part 8: Case filings per judge by year, Part 9: Cases per judge
Universe: Federal district court cases from 1904-2002.
Data Types: administrative records data, aggregate data, and survey data
Data Collection Notes:
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Study Purpose: This study analyzed the determinants of the explosion in the caseload of the United States federal district courts that commenced in 1960. Between 1904 and 2002, civil cases grew at an average annual rate of about 3 percent, a rate far greater than the growth of population or per capita income over the same period. By contrast, criminal case filings increased more slowly over the past 60 years -- by about 0.5 percent annually on the average. First, using econometric techniques, this study sought to provide forecasts of future demands on the federal courts, reducing forecasting errors by taking account of the time series properties of the case data. Out-of-sample forecasts were generated through 2020. Secondly, the study also specified and estimated multivariate econometric models of the determinants of civil case filings over time and across geographic space using panel data techniques. The study investigated the distribution of federal civil cases across states, districts, and circuits. Models were presented that policymakers can use to forecast the future caseloads of the federal court system as a whole and to estimate how the total caseload can be expected to be distributed geographically.
Study Design: In order to specify and estimate models of the determinants of the demand for federal district court cases, the researchers constructed a comprehensive dataset based on aggregated annual case volumes of individual district courts. They analyzed the stochastic behavior of aggregate annual civil and criminal case filings spanning the 1904-1998 period, for a total of 95 yearly observations. The objective was to ascertain whether the series was a realization of stationary versus nonstationary stochastic processes, a crucial distinction regarding the underlying data generating process to the development of a univariate time-series forecasting model. The time series of civil and criminal cases was also subjected to a variety of unit-root tests to obtain robust evidence regarding the degree of smoothness in the series under study. In an attempt to model the socioeconomic factors possibly associated with the increased civil case filings since the 1960s, the study also investigated the distribution of federal civil cases across states, districts, and circuits. Civil case filings were analyzed using three different categories: United States cases, private cases, and their summed total. Due to lack of data for the 1961-1998 period at more disaggregated levels, the modeling for the three categories of cases was limited to three levels: (1) statewide models using district-level observations aggregated to the state level, (2) districtwide models to analyze the influence of the factors at the district level, and (3) circuitwide models using district-level observations aggregated to the circuit level. The empirical models included standard socioeconomic variables, such as income, population density, and race, along with variables that controlled for fixed effects associated with the courts' geographic location. For the sake of continuity, the Fifth Circuit and the Eleventh Circuit were treated as a single circuit, the Fifth Circuit. The researchers also investigated the interplay between criminal and civil caseloads by collecting panel data from 1968 to 1998. These data included variables on judgeships per district, disposition of cases, and drug and immigration cases.
Sample: Data were obtained from the various data sources on all civil and criminal federal district court cases from 1904-1998. As part of the project the researchers also generated out-of-sample forecasts through 2020 based on estimates of autoregressive time series models of civil and criminal cases and by using annual data for the years 1904 to 1998.
All criminal court case data were obtained from the Administrative Office of the United States Courts: FEDERAL COURT MANAGEMENT STATISTICS (1968-2002) and the "Annual Report of the Director" (1968-1998). Some civil court case data were obtained from the following sources from the United States Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census: COUNTY AND CITY DATA BOOKS (1962, 1967, 1972, 1977, 1983, 1994), CURRENT POPULATION SURVEY (1976-2002, for some of the larger states from 1970), USA Counties CD-ROM (since 1970), and "Statistical Abstracts of the United States" (1961-1998). Civil court case data were also obtained from the Administrative Office of the United States Courts: FEDERAL COURT MANAGEMENT STATISTICS (1961-2002), and the "Annual Report of the Director" (1968-1998). Time-series data on civil, criminal, and total cases (1904-1998) are from the "Annual Reports of the Director" (1995-1998) and from Richard Posner, THE FEDERAL COURTS: CHALLENGE AND REFORM, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996, pp. 391-393.
Description of Variables: The data in Part 1 (Federal Court Civil and Criminal Cases, 1904-1998) contain information for year, total civil cases, and total criminal cases separately and added together. Parts 2 through 5 (Federal Court District Data and Federal Court Circuit Data, 1961-1998, Federal Court Statewide Data, 1961-1998, and Federal Court Statewide Data, 1976-1998) include year, indicator variables for the 11 geographical circuits, including the District of Columbia Circuit, per capita income, total civil cases pending from previous year, total civil cases filed, per capita total civil cases filed, total civil cases terminated, total civil cases pending for the following year, United States civil cases pending from previous year, United States civil cases filed, per capita United States civil cases filed, United States civil cases terminated, United States civil cases pending for following year, private civil cases pending from previous year, private civil cases filed, per capita private civil cases filed, private civil cases terminated, private civil cases pending for the following year, land area, population, number of people per unit of land area, per capita government employees, percentage of minority population, and unemployment rate. Parts 2 and 3 also include total income, size of minority population, total number of government employees, and labor force. Parts 2, 4, and 5 also include an indicator for southern districts. Part 6 (Federal Court Panel Data on Drugs and Immigration, 1968-1998) contains information on year, district name, number of judges, pending total criminal cases, total criminal cases commenced and terminated, the total of drug-related and immigration cases, civil and criminal case filings per judge, pending cases, terminations, and criminal trials per judge, median filing to disposition of criminal and civil cases, and percentage of drug and immigration cases out of all criminal cases. Variables for Part 7 (District Court Drug and Immigration Data for Arizona and Southern California, 1970-2002) include year, unweighted and weighted cases per judge, percentage deviation of weighted cases from unweighted cases, total criminal cases, drug cases, immigration cases, total drug and immigration cases, percentage of drug and immigration cases separately and combined, and the number of judges in the District of Arizona and the Southern District of California. Variables for Part 8 (Weighted Versus Unweighted Federal Court Civil and Criminal Case Filings Per Judge, 1969-2002) include year, annual civil and criminal case filings per judge, and annual unweighted and weighted total case filings per judge. Part 9 (Weighted Versus Unweighted Federal Court District Cases Per Judge, 1984) includes variables for unweighted and weighted total cases per judge in district.
Response Rates: Not applicable.
Presence of Common Scales: None.
Extent of Processing: ICPSR data undergo a confidentiality review and are altered when necessary to limit the risk of disclosure. ICPSR also routinely creates ready-to-go data files along with setups in the major statistical software formats as well as standard codebooks to accompany the data. In addition to these procedures, ICPSR performed the following processing steps for this data collection:
- Checked for undocumented or out-of-range codes.
Original ICPSR Release: 2004-10-08
- 2006-03-30 File UG3987.ALL.PDF was removed from any previous datasets and flagged as a study-level file, so that it will accompany all downloads.
- 2006-03-30 File CB3987.ALL.PDF was removed from any previous datasets and flagged as a study-level file, so that it will accompany all downloads.
- 2005-11-04 On 2005-03-14 new files were added to one or more datasets. These files included additional setup files as well as one or more of the following: SAS program, SAS transport, SPSS portable, and Stata system files. The metadata record was revised 2005-11-04 to reflect these additions.
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