Court of Appeals Caseload Information

House Bill 239 would reduce the number of judges on the court of appeals from 15 to 12. It has passed the House and awaits Senate consideration. Proponents of the bill (mostly Republicans) say that the court should contract because the number of appeals has fallen in recent years. The bill’s opponents (mostly Democrats) say that the court remains extremely busy, and that the real purpose of the bill is to prevent Governor Cooper from appointing replacements for three Republican judges who are nearing mandatory retirement age. This post presents some historical and statistical information that may help readers assess the bill for themselves. [Update: I have received several comments pointing out other factors, beyond caseload, that should be considered when determining the size of a court. Clearly, factors like disposition times, number of law clerks and staff attorneys, and case mix are all pertinent. This post presents caseload data because caseload information is relevant and readily available, but it isn’t intended as a complete analysis — interested readers are encouraged to consider the full spectrum of pertinent information. To get a sense of how complex measuring and comparing court performance is, see, e.g., W. Warren H. Binford et al., Seeking Best Practices among Intermediate Courts of Appeal: A Nascent Journey, 9 J. App. Prac. & Process 37 (2007) (noting that “[c]ourt productivity is difficult to define, let alone measure,” but finding the Court of Appeals of North Carolina to be above average in both “productivity” and “efficiency”).]

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