The NJ Court system has set time goals for disposing of cases that are filed in their system. They rate cases by vicinage (county) and case type (criminal, civil, family, municipal, etc.). The report for the year July 2007 through June 2008 has just been published by the Administrative Office of the Courts. It shows that backlogs are down, despite the filings of new cases being up. If you’re having trouble falling asleep, you can read it here.
In the civil division (in which I am referred cases to mediate), statewide filings amounted to nearly 95,000 new cases. In the same time period, 109,000 cases were disposed of (basically, the cases ended due to a settlement, motion, judgment/trial, or lack of prosecution/defense). At the end of June 2008, there were 93,000 active cases. Of those, 17% were considered backlogged (past the expected time for a final disposition). The total number of cases backlogged is down 5% from the previous year.
Cases from the special civil part (claims less than $15,000) amounted to 608,000 filings and 601,000 dispositions (both up 17% from the previous year). 2% of special civil part are considered backlogged.
How about divorces (where I am also referred cases from)? Filings amounted to 68,000 (same as dispositions) over the year. That is up 2% from the previous year. 18,000 were active at the end of the year and of those 5% were backlogged.
One of the main reasons cases are sent to mediation is to get them resolved and off the court’s docket. The court simply does not have the resources to hear a million cases a year, along with all the associated motions, case management, settlement conferences, etc. The fact is only 1.8% of cases filed ever make it to trial. Mediation saves the litigants time, money and aggravation.
As a comparison, about 29% of all civil cases statewide resolve directly in mediation (my personal settlement rate in court assigned cases is about 50%). Even if the cases do not settle directly in mediation, mediation will lay the ground work for the settlement.