Approximately 843 justice of the peace courts were in operation in the State during the state fiscal year which ended August 31, 1997. Each court was requested to submit a one-page report on activity of that court each month. Statewide, a total of 9,051 reports were submitted, out of a possible 10,116 for the year (an 89 percent reporting rate).
Revenue collected by the reporting courts during the year totaled $145,696,674, a seven percent increase over the previous year. The amount of revenue per disposition, excluding dismissals, averaged $107.35. This revenue is deposited in the treasury of the county where the court has jurisdiction; however, certain court costs on each case are remitted to special funds of the State.
Criminal Cases Dominate Dockets; Civil Cases Increasing
Criminal misdemeanor cases comprised 89 percent of the cases filed in the reporting courts. Civil cases accounted for the remaining 11 percent of the new cases filed. The composition of total cases filed has changed slightly since fiscal year 1993, when total cases filed were composed of 90 percent criminal cases and 10 percent civil cases.
Of the criminal cases filed in fiscal year 1997, 73 percent were traffic cases with the remaining 27 percent for non-traffic misdemeanors. Traffic cases accounted for 65 percent of all cases filed. Civil cases filed were divided 45 percent forcible entry and detainer suits, 27 percent small claims, and 28 percent civil actions.
An analysis of the number of civil cases filed for fiscal years 1993 thru 1997 revealed an increase of 12 percent over the five year period. The number of civil cases filed grew approximately 3 percent each year during this period. Overall, cases involving forcible entry and deteainer increased 19 percent while small claims and other civil suites rose about 7 percent.
The number of criminal cases filed remained relatively constant over the last five years. While the number of non-traffic cases filed has risen slowly, the rate of increase quadrupled during the five year period. The number of traffic cases filed fluctuated slightly between fiscal years 1993 and 1997, resulting in an overall decrease of four percent from fiscal year 1993. The combination of the rise in non-traffic case filings and the decline in traffic case filings caused the overall number of criminal cases filed to remain basically unchanged.
The Number of Cases Appealed
The number of appeals filed as a percentage of all case dispositions at trial continued a declining trend. Approximately seven percent of dispositions at trial resulted in appeals in fiscal year 1993, while appeals resulted in less than four percent of dispositions at trial in fiscal year 1997. Additionally, the total number of appeals filed annually has decreased while the total number of cases disposed of at trial has increased each
year. Over the five year period, the number of dispositions at trial rose approximately 29 percent, and the number of cases appealed declined about 33 percent. Further analysis indicated that the number of appeals filed for cases involving forcible entry and detainer increased steadily over the five year period. The number of appeals filed decreased for all other case types, including all criminal cases and small claims suits.