Time for a few multiple-choice questions:
1. In the fiscal year ending September 30, 2008, the number of cases filed in federal court in Connecticut was: a) up significantly over 2007; b) about the same as 2007; c) markedly down from 2007.
2. Since 2003, the number of cases filed and pending in the federal court in Connecticut is: a) trending noticeably upwards; b) remaining fairly constant; c) trending noticeably downwards.
3. In 2008, the median time it took a civil case to get to trial in federal court in Connecticut was: a) 18 months; b) 25 months; c) 32 months; d) 40 months
If you answered c) to each of the questions, you are well on your way to becoming an expert on court statistics.
But for those needing a little extra study, you can find the new statistics for Connecticut (and every other federal court) available on the U.S. Courts website here. The statistics were just released and reveal overall trends in the federal court system.
Why is this important for employers? Employers should be aware of the federal court statistics because many claims of discrimination are brought under federal law (and therefore, in federal court). If there are big increases in the numbers of discrimination cases, you would expect to see a noticeable uptick in the court caseload.
The fact that the caseload has decreased in 2008 and has continued to decrease for multiple years reveals that whatever trends may be happening at an administrative level or national level, they haven’t translated in Connecticut to significantly more cases as of yet.. Compare this with the New York City area which shows the caseload trending higher over the last several years.
In fact, Connecticut seems be running counter to the national numbers, which showed the number of cases filed in district courts nationwide was up 4.3% over 2007.) Employers should also be cognizant that they were not likely to get a quick outcome of the case. Waiting 32 months for a trial is, as the statistics reveal, quite common in Connecticut.
Employers should not draw too many conclusions from the statistics. After all, the most recent statistics of charges pending at the EEOC shows quite a number of claims in the pipeline. While 2008 may not have been the most litigious one for employers in Connecticut, where 2009 ends up remains a big question.