We took a sabbatical for a bit while I shoveled work off my desk, but with 2017 here already, let’s get back in the saddle by making some general observations about 2016.
Law Court caseload statistics have been posted for 2012 through 2016. On the civil front, overall, total filings show 477 in 2012, 420 in 2013, 431 in 2014, 443 in 2015 and 478 in 2016. So a dip, and then back to the 2012 level. The distribution of types of appeals, however, has changed, with fewer general civil appeals, far fewer worker’s comp appeals, and more family and child protective appeals. The child protection appeals in particular soared from 38 in 2012 to 89 in 2016. One of my favorites, 80Bs and 80Cs, have kept steady numbers – 25-29 over the five year period. Probate has almost doubled, from 15 in 2012 to 27 in 2016. People are apparently crankier about their speeding tickets, too – 1 traffic infraction appeal in 2012 to 8 in 2016. More lawyers have been naughty or accused of being naughty, with 18 discipline cases in 2012 up to 29 in 2016.
On the criminal appeals front, there were a total of 198 filings in 2012, compared to 174 in 2016. So lawyers may be naughtier, but apparently not the general population.
In sum, overall, as to all types of filings in the Law Court, the trend has been 675-602-607-625-652 – a dip, now climbing back up, redistributed as to type.
As to what’s coming down the pike, at the trial court level, criminal keeps going down, and total civil is down 2.1% in 2016 from 2015. The 2012-2016 statistics don’t tell a story that leaps out other than this general decline, except, unsurprisingly, the number of foreclosures are down significantly. 80B and 80Cs are up slightly. Real estate cases are up. The jump in child protection cases in the Law Court appears a one year aberration at this point, because they are down in the district court for 2016 after a 2015 jump (from 1002 in 2015 to 877 in 2016).
If you are looking for overall trends as to the court system in general, I’d say the ## are down, and continue to show a particular decline in using the court as a forum for deciding civil disputes. In the general civil category of trial courts, there were 39,240 filings in 2012 and only 27,950 in 2016. We can debate why this is so, or whether it’s good or bad, but the numbers are what they are.
The numbers are posted here:
Appellate Advisory Committee
A major development on the Maine appellate front was the creation by the SJC of an Advisory Committee on the appellate rules. For links to the orders see the May 2016 listing here – http://www.courts.maine.gov/news_reference/news/index.shtml
The Committee has diligently gone through the rules and I would anticipate some proposals coming out for public review this year. It has been a pleasure serving on this Committee with such appellate illuminati under the leadership of Justice Alexander. I have learned a lot about the practice in areas in which I don’t normally participate, i.e. criminal and domestic appeals, and the issues presented when trying to make a rule that fairly fits all appeals of all sizes. Stay tuned.
As always, I welcome all comments. Just send an email my way at email@example.com.