State, county and municipal courts are facing delays, backlogs, and workforce shortages

Many courts in the United States are “overburdened and under-resourced,” according to a
study released Thursday by the Thomson Reuters Institute.

“The U.S. court system is facing a perfect storm of delays, backlogs and workforce shortages,” according to a press release describing the State of the Courts Report 2023 by the Thomson Reuters Institute. The study is based on a November 2022 online survey of 201 U.S. judges and court professionals.

Delays in court hearings have become a significant problem at the state, county and municipal levels, according to the report. Among respondents who participate in hearings on a weekly basis, 79% reported that delays of more than 15 minutes have affected their hearing process.

The most common reason for delays was a failure to appear.

Other study findings:

  • 68% of respondents said their courts faced workforce shortages in the past year, even as 58 said their staffing budgets stagnated or decreased.
  • 44% of the respondents said backlogs have increased in the last two years, while 45% said their caseloads are also increasing.
  • 81% said courts are conducting hearings through virtual platforms. Forty percent said a majority of court hearings are conducted virtually.

The report said virtual hearings are increasing access to justice, but courts still need to modernize to handle digital evidence.