Analysis of Activity for the Year Ended
August 31, 1998

New Cases Added

The 396 district courts in the State experienced a decrease in the number of new cases filed during the reporting year, from 555,385 in 1997 to 544,590. The number of new criminal cases filed increased 2 percent above 1997 filings, civil cases decreased 4 percent, and juvenile cases increased 1 percent.

As Figure 1 below indicates, civil cases accounted for 443,095 or 64 percent of all cases added during the fiscal year. Family law matters other than divorce actions comprised the largest segment of civil cases added, with 36 percent of civil case additions. Divorce actions constituted 21 percent, damages and personal injury cases (including workers' compensation) comprised 10 percent, tax cases comprised 11 percent, and disputes over debts made up 5 percent.

Juvenile cases (Title 3 of the Texas Family Code) accounted for 37,261, or 5 percent of the total cases added in the district courts.

Criminal cases constituted 215,958, or 31 percent, of the total cases added during the year. Of the criminal cases, 13 percent involved a charge of theft (including auto theft), 10 percent burglary, 4 percent robbery, 1 percent homicide (including capital murder), 12 percent assault (including sexual assault of a child and of an adult), 6 percent felony DWI, 32 percent drug offenses, and 3 percent were misdemeanor cases. Of the new criminal cases filed in district courts, 14 percent were by information, and 86 percent were by indictment.

Urban Filings

The number of total cases added to the docket in the ten most populous Texas counties decreased 8,459 cases (2 percent) in state fiscal year 1998 above the number of filings during 1997. In all other counties, the number of cases added decreased 4 percent. These ten most populous counties (Harris, Dallas, Bexar, Tarrant, El Paso, Travis, Hidalgo, Nueces, Denton, and Collin) had over 55 percent of the state's population and 57 percent of the total cases added during the fiscal year.

Total cases added increased in El Paso County (19 percent), Collin County (5 percent) and Tarrant County (0.3 percent). Decreases in total filings occurred in Hidalgo (17 percent), Bexar (11 percent), Denton County (5 percent), Dallas County (5 percent), Travis County (3 percent), Nueces County (0.5 percent), and Harris County (0.2 percent).

Criminal cases added to the docket increased 0.6 percent in the ten urban counties during fiscal year 1998 as compared to 1997. This compares to 0.4 percent decrease in criminal filings for all other counties of the State. Criminal filings increased in six of the ten urban counties: Collin (20 percent), Nueces (9 percent), El Paso (6 percent), Travis (5 percent), Dallas (2 percent), and Tarrant (2 percent). Counties reporting a decrease in criminal cases added to the docket were Bexar (2 percent), Harris (3 percent), Denton (6 percent), and Hidalgo (1 percent).

Civil cases added decreased 4 percent in the ten most populous counties and decreased 1 percent in the remaining counties of the State. Three counties reported increases in civil filings: El Paso (18 percent), Harris (0.5 percent), and Tarrant (0.1 percent). Decreases in civil filings occurred in Collin (2 percent), Denton (6 percent), Nueces (8 percent), Travis (8 percent), Dallas (9 percent), Bexar (17 percent), and Hidalgo (24 percent).


During the fiscal year, the district courts disposed of 100.3 percent of the total criminal and civil cases added to their dockets, compared to 101 percent in 1997. The district courts in the ten most populous counties disposed of 100.3 percent. In all other counties of the State, 100.2 percent were disposed. Statewide, 98 percent of the criminal cases and 102 percent of the civil cases added to the dockets were disposed of during the year.

In the ten most populous counties the disposition rate of criminal cases averaged 99.9 percent of cases added, ranging from 88 percent in Travis County to 111 percent in Bexar County. The disposition rate of criminal cases for the rest of the State averaged 95.6 percent of those added to the docket.

Comparable figures for civil cases show an average disposition rate of 101 percent in the ten urban counties and a 103 percent disposition rate in the rest of the State. The range in the ten urban counties was from 83 percent in Hidalgo County to 109 percent in Nueces County.

An average of 1,763 cases per judge statewide were disposed of during the year, compared with 1,821 per judge during 1997.

Of all civil cases disposed, 24 percent were by non jury trials, and approximately 48 percent of these non jury trials were in divorce cases. Of the civil cases disposed, 35 percent were family law cases including show cause motions but not divorces. Of all civil cases, 11 percent were dismissed for want of prosecution, and 16 percent were dismissed at the request of the plaintiff.

The defendant entered a plea of guilty in 37 percent of the criminal cases disposed. Including these pleas, the defendant was convicted in 39 percent of the cases and acquitted in less than one percent. In 15 percent of the criminal dispositions, the defendant was placed on deferred adjudication. Dismissals accounted for 15 percent of disposed cases. Of these dismissals, 9 percent were because of insufficient evidence, 8 percent were because the case was refiled, and 24 percent because the defendant was convicted in another case.

In the cases in which the defendant pleaded not guilty and which were disposed of by jury verdicts, the defendant was found guilty in 82 percent of the cases and was acquitted in 18 percent.

Among the criminal cases, the categories with the highest rate for disposition by conviction was were felony DWI with 62 percent and capital murder with 58 percent. The highest rate of disposition by dismissal was for sexual assault of an adult with 27 percent. The lowest rate of dismissal was for felony DWI with 8 percent.

Disposition Rates

Of the 211,630 criminal cases disposed by the district courts, 33 percent were disposed of in a period of less than two months from the date of indictment or information, 11 percent took two to three months, 9 percent took three to four months, and 47 percent took over four months.

Of juvenile cases handled by the district courts, a finding of delinquent conduct or conduct indicating a need for supervision (CINS) was entered in 44 percent of the cases disposed. Probation was continued in 8 percent of the cases and revoked in less than 1 percent of the cases. Dismissals and other dispositions occurred in 48 percent of the cases disposed.

District courts handled 2 percent less divorce actions during 1998 than during 1997. During the fiscal year, 120,756 divorce cases were disposed, 27 percent of all civil (non-juvenile) cases handled by district courts. Seventeen percent of divorce cases were dismissed.

Tax cases tend to stay on the docket for long periods of time compared to other categories of cases. This fiscal year, 30 percent of the tax cases filed during the year or carried over from the previous year were disposed of by the district courts, one percent less than in fiscal year 1997. Approximately 51 percent of tax case dispositions were either dismissed for want of prosecution or by the plaintiff.

District courts disposed of 2 percent less personal injury-type cases during 1998 than during 1997. Nineteen percent of the personal injury-type cases ended in agreed judgments, and 33 percent were dismissed by the plaintiff.

Of the 450,583 civil dispositions during the year, the courts disposed of 28 percent of the cases in under three months, 20 percent in three to six months, 20 percent in six to twelve months, 11 percent in twelve to eighteen months, and 22 percent over eighteen months.

Cases Pending Decrease

The 539,273 civil cases pending in the district courts on August 31, 1998 represent a 2 percent decrease over the 547,966 pending on August 31, 1997. Criminal cases pending increased 6 percent, from 177,236 to 188,329.

Death Sentences Imposed

Thirty-six death sentences (compared to 34 in 1997) and 374 life sentences were assessed in the district courts during the year.

Return to 1998 Annual Report