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  Chapter Eleven:
 
GOVERNMENT
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  Government Spending
  Government Employees
  Federal Entitlements
  Federal Judiciary
  Military Personnel
  Blacks in the Military
  Women in the Military
  War Deaths
  Veterans
  Patriotic Attitudes

  

 

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GOVERNMENT

Federal Judiciary

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In the last three decades of the century, the judicial branch of the federal government grew at a much faster rate than the executive and legislative branches.
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From 1970 to 1998, the number of federal employees in the judicial branch quadrupled from 6,887 to 31,742 (see upper chart). In the same period, the number of federal employees in the legislative branch remained almost exactly the same: 30,715 in 1970 and 30,747 in 1998. The number of employees in the much larger executive branch actually declined slightly from 2.8 million to 2.7 million, including postal workers. 

The growth of the judicial branch followed a sharp increase in the number of civil cases commenced in federal district courts after 1960 (see lower chart). In the 1940s, about half of all new cases were criminal cases, but the proportion of criminal cases declined to less than a fifth by the end of the century. The largest categories of civil cases were prisoner petitions, civil rights complaints, and product liability claims—all of which were rare or nonexistent in the federal courts before the 1960s. In one three-year period alone, 1993 to 1996, prisoner petitions increased by 32 percent, civil rights complaints by 53 percent, and product liability claims by 82 percent. 

Despite the rapid expansion of judicial branch personnel, the district courts would have collapsed under this tidal wave of litigation if the proportion of cases going to trial had remained about the same. The fact is that fewer cases went to trial at the end of the century than in 1970. In 1997, only 3 percent of cases went to trial, usually a bench trial without a jury. Most cases were withdrawn by the plaintiffs, dismissed by the court, or settled at an early stage of the proceedings. Indeed, many were filed in the expectation of a quick cash settlement.


Chapter 11 chart 4

Source Notes
Source Abbreviations

HS series H 1097 and Y 308–317; SA 1988, table 501; SA 1998, table 559; and SA 1999, table 566. For judicial employees, see SA 1979, table 460; SA 1998, table 559; and NYT 1999, page 130. For trials, see SA 1998, table 68.

 

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