Civil Case Processing in the Federal District Courts: A Twenty-First Century Analysis

114 Pages Posted: 23 Jan 2009

Date Written: January 21, 2009


This is an investigation into civil case processing in the United States District Courts. It broadly addresses two main issues: (1) the variation in the techniques, steps, and procedures that different judges and attorneys use to manage their civil cases, despite the existence of an (at least facially) uniform set of civil rules; and (2) the relationship between those techniques, steps, and procedures, and the amount of time it takes for cases to proceed from filing to disposition. Our objective is to explain how judges, attorneys and parties contribute to the overall length of a case through the procedures they adopt, tactics they use, and schedules to which they adhere.

Based on review of the dockets of nearly 7700 closed civil cases in eight federal district courts, the study examines statistical correlations between the overall time to disposition of a case and the presence and timing of typical events in the course of litigation (such as a Rule 16 conference, discovery disputes, and motion practice). It also sets out descriptive statistics concerning the use of scheduling conferences, discovery and dispositive motions, and extensions of time. The study concludes with a discussion of non-quantitative factors that may affect case processing, including local legal culture, public reporting of caseflow management data, and judicial leadership.

Keywords: case processing, civil procedure, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, federal courts, caseflow management, delay

Suggested Citation

Singer, Jordan M., Civil Case Processing in the Federal District Courts: A Twenty-First Century Analysis (January 21, 2009). Available at SSRN: or

Jordan M. Singer (Contact Author)

New England Law | Boston ( email )

154 Stuart St.
Boston, MA 02116
United States
(617) 368-1434 (Phone)


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