Friday, August 01, 2008

How much time do Texas judges spend on cases?

How much time do judges spend on the cases before them? A study released in June (pdf) from the National Center for State Courts analyzed judicial need in Texas by asking a judicial officers in 97 Texas counties to track the time they spent on different types of cases. Here's what they came up with for average time spent per case type:
Felony Group A: 186 minutes
Felony Group B: 39 minutes
Misdemeanors: 12 minutes
Injury or Damage - MV: 126 minutes
Injury or Damage - Non MV: 122 minutes
Contract: 53 minutes
Other Civil: 27 minutes
Divorce: 47 minutes
Modifications/Enforcements: 33 minutes
Other Family Law: 48 minutes
Delinquent Conduct: 54 minutes
Need for supervision (CINS): 14 minutes
These figures represent the total amount of time judges spent handling all aspects of these cases. "For example, judicial officers in Texas are currentlyspending, on average, 186 minutes handling a Felony Group A case (capital murder, murder,robbery/aggravated robbery, etc.) from filing to disposition." While some cases that go to trial may take much longer, these low numbers reflect the massive number of plea bargains processed on which judges spend little time at all.

How much do judges work? The report says "that judicial officers in Texas have, on average, 215 days available each year to perform case-related activities." On those days, judges put in on average 5.5-6 hours of actual case-related work, according to the report.

Of course, judges have other responsibilities besides just hearing cases - criminal court judges, for example, oversee the probation department as the equivalent of its board of directors. And different judges may devote more or less time either to cases, attending to public policy concerns, campaigning (they are, after all, elected officials), or to various administrative functions.

There's a lot more to the report, which estimates levels of judicial need based on these estimates in counties across the state. Judges, county justice planners and others interested should check out the full publication (pdf).


Ron in Houston said...

While there are some really hard working judges, they are in my opinion the exception and not the rule.

Just go into a courthouse on a Friday afternoon and see how many judges you can find.

Anonymous said...

Ron, why would they be there on fridays? 215 days a year at 6 hours a day ... in regular people days (the ones that have to work 248 - 250 days per year at 8 or more hours a day) would only be about 8 months or so out of a year (that is the 12 month kind -- I feel like I have to clarify for people who think 5.5 - 6 hours is a full work day). Instead of more Judges why don't we just elect full time ones?

Anonymous said...

As a probation officer in Bexar County who is overworked and underpaid, I can attest that most Judges are'nt concerned about working a full 8 hour day. Yet they hire the Chief probation officers and are responsible for approving the DISGUSTINGLY LOW budgets that continue the low morale and HIGH turnover of probation officers! Why are we held to a higher standard and paid so poorly?

Thomas Hobbes said...

Please don't tell me that "campaigning" is among the "other responsibilities" for which we pay judges. It's ludicrous to suggest - as you may have done - that the time judges expend in efforts to retain their offices is, or should be, compensable.

Anonymous said...

Nah, they don't call it campaigning, they call it "non case related activity" which includes: non-case related administraton, judicial education & training, general legal research, community activities and public outreach, travel, vacation, sick leave, holiday, lunch and the time it took to do the study!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

How long does it take to adjudicate a plea bargain? The Public Defenders have no resources for expert witnesses and the majority of criminal attorneys take money so they can delay the case long enough to let the money well of their clgets you a plea bargain.ient run dry,and then its plea bargain time.It's not just the judges,but the system.MOney will get justice and the lack of it

Anonymous said...

Judges don't don't spend enough time working; look at this video and you will know how hard our Legislators work: This should shock you and make you think about your next vote for your Legislators

Anonymous said...

Funny...when I remarked on an earlier post that many of the appointed defense attorney's sought to have their clients "cop a plea", I was gang-banged by several such attorneys for that comment. But, as you state, they represent a "massive" number of such case dispositions.

With the large case loads such dispositions are almost indispensable to administration of justice.
So, with that said, perhaps I am now rehabilitated.

Anonymous said...

Other than the work habits of our elected judges, any other thoughts on the study? Does the report's methodology seem reasonable and are the results within the ballpark for those types of cases? This report will be used to ask for dozens of new courts across the state during the next legislature, so if someone has done a real analysis of the findings I'd be interested.