County-Level Courts

Analysis of Activity for the Year Ended August 31, 1997

This section contains the court activity of the 254 constitutional county courts, the 172 statutory county courts-at-law, and the 19 statutory probate courts. Nine additional statutory county courts-at-law have been authorized by the Legislature to be made operational at a later date.

From the number of cases reported, criminal cases constituted 72 percent (475,041) of the 660,346 new cases filed or appealed from lower courts. This figure includes criminal, civil, and juvenile new cases filed and appeals from lower courts, as well as cases filed under probate and mental health. Civil cases accounted for 15 percent (96,947), probate cases represented eight percent (55,452), mental health cases represented four percent (26,434), and juvenile cases represented one percent (6,472) of the total.

Criminal Docket

Concerning the criminal cases only, 22 percent of those filed in or appealed to the county-level courts were for theft or worthless check, 17 percent were for driving while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs (DWI/DUID), 11 percent were for simple assault, eight percent for violations of drug laws, 13 percent for traffic offenses (41 percent of which were cases appealed from justice of the peace or municipal courts), and 29 percent were for other criminal offenses.

 Only six percent of the total criminal cases added to the county-level court dockets came by way of appeal from justice of the peace or municipal courts rather than being originally filed in at the county-level courts or added in another manner.

Civil Docket

Of the civil cases filed in or appealed to the county-level courts during the year ended August 31, 1997, 32 percent were classified as suits on debt, 20 percent concerned personal injury/damage suits, seven percent were divorce suits, five percent concerned other family matters, 36 percent were other civil cases, and the remaining cases were tax suits


 During the twelve-month reporting period, the county-level courts of the State disposed of 47 percent of the 1,391,722 total criminal, civil, and juvenile cases on their dockets (added during the year or carried over from the previous year). No statistics on the disposition of probate or mental health cases are recorded. The disposition rate was highest for juvenile cases, with 65 percent. Forty-nine percent of the criminal cases and 38 percent of the civil cases on the docket were disposed. Of the criminal cases on the docket, the county-level courts disposed of 58 percent of the drug charges, 50 percent of the DWI/DUID charges, 35 percent of theft charges, 56 percent of assault charges, 58 percent of traffic cases, and 58 percent of other criminal cases.

Of the 61,166 motions to revoke probation in criminal cases filed during the year, 30,342 were granted and 15,098 were continued on probation or deferred adjudication. Disposed motions to revoke accounted for eight percent of the total dispositions in criminal cases.

Deferred adjudication accounted for 13 percent of the total dispositions. Of the case categories where the defendant was placed on deferred adjudication, other criminal cases was the highest with 25 percent and DWI/DUID was the lowest with 1 percent.

Excluding probate and mental health, the county-level courts disposed of 657,995 cases, while 649,387 cases were added to their dockets.

 Of the criminal cases dispositions, 42.5 percent of the dispositions followed a plea of guilty or nolo contendere.

Twenty-eight percent of all criminal dispositions were by dismissal. Within each case category, dismissals accounted for 13 percent of the DWI/DUID cases, 42 percent of the theft cases, 18 percent of the drug cases, 34 percent of the assault cases, 36 percent of the traffic cases, and 25 of the other criminal case dispositions.

With regard to civil cases, 17 percent of dispositions involved a trial. Of the civil cases tried, 962 were before a jury and 17,200 were before a judge alone. Default or agreed judgments accounted for 28 percent of civil dispositions, and 36 percent of all civil cases were dismissed. Of the 3,113 show cause motions filed in family law cases in the county-level courts, 79 percent were disposed.

Total Pending Caseloads Decrease

Total cases pending on the dockets of the county-level courts decreased by 0.5 percent from 737,618 on September 1, 1996, to 733,727 on August 31, 1997. This does not include probate or mental health cases.

Cases remaining on the dockets on August 31, 1997, represented a 1 percent decrease in pending civil cases and a 0.4 percent decrease in pending criminal cases during the fiscal year.