Multidistrict Litigation Drives Large Numbers of Cases Handled by Federal Civil Judges
(06 Jan 2022) Federal civil cases involve legal disputes between two or more parties. Nationally, there were 531,164 civil cases awaiting resolution before U.S. district court judges at the end of December 2020. Over the same year, federal judges completed 242,657 civil cases. A new report from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) analyzes data on federal civil suits from 2020.

Judge Margaret Catharine Rodgers of the Northern District of Florida had the most pending cases by far with 219,337 cases pending at the end of the calendar year 2020. The reason for Judge Rodger’s high number of pending cases—like high numbers for many judges—was due to the fact that a large percentage of pending cases is made up of multidistrict litigation (MDL) dockets. MDL dockets are usually complex litigation involving plaintiffs with common issues from a number of different districts. These cases are consolidated before a single judge to process the cases more efficiently as provided for under 28 USC 1407. Court reports indicate that by the end of 2020, on December 15, there were 178 MDL ongoing dockets.

Focusing on judges without MDL cases provides another picture of the distribution of federal civil litigation. At the end of December 2020, Judge James Rodney Gilstrap of the Eastern District of Texas had 286 property rights cases pending, while also completing 256 such cases—more than any other non-MDL judge in the country on both counts. Judge Shelly Deckert Dick of the Middle District of Louisiana also ranked highest for both pending (130) and completed (227) contract cases.

Information on the civil workloads of each federal district court judge covering calendar year 2018 is available in TRAC's Judge Information Center. Information is available not only on each judge's overall caseload, but by type of suit. In addition, detailed reports on each judge are available on a subscription basis. The civil workload reports provide detailed comparisons of the time it took each judge to close cases, as well as how long cases still pending before each judge have been waiting to be disposed of at the end of calendar year 2020. The specific cases, and the number of days they have been pending or had taken to be disposed of, are listed for those matters that have taken the longest periods of time.

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