, Volume 3, Issue 2, pp 143-167

Appellate and trial court caseload growth: A pooled time-series-cross-section analysis

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This is an econometric study of factors behind filing growth since 1970 in state trial courts and, especially, appellate courts. The model posits two categories of variables: those affecting the supply of disputes and those affecting the costbenefit considerations of potential litigants. The study uses a pooled time-seriescross-section design and a fixed-effects regression procedure. The overall conclusion is that factors determining the supply of disputes overwhelm other factors entered in the model. At the trial level, economic conditions 2 years earlier strongly affect civil filings, and crime rates for the current and prior year have moderate impacts on criminal filings. The output capacity of trial courts, measured by the number of judges, has a strong impact on appeals. Economic conditions and trial court filings influence civil appeals in later years, and prison commitments influence criminal appeals. The great majority of cost-benefit factors, such as simplification of appellate procedure and interest-rate differentials, showed little or no impact on appeals.

In view of the rising emphasis on replicability (Dewaldet al., 1986; Campbell, 1986; Cook and Zarkin, 1986), we stress that the data for this research are available from the Inter-Univarsity consortium for Political and Social Research, and we will provide copies of the computer printouts giving the programs (that apply SAS) and the results. In addition, Court Studies periodically updates the data set, and it will supply current data upon request.