Striking a Devil’s Bargain: The Federal Courts and Expanding Caseloads in the Twenty-First Century, by Diarmuid F. O’Scannlain, 13 Lewis & Clark Law Review 473 (2009).
“Over the past four decades, caseloads in the federal courts have grown by leaps and bounds. During the twelve months ending in September 2008, more than sixty-one thousand cases reached the twelve regional United States courts of appeals, which have only 167 active judgeships. Such impossibly inflated dockets have forced the federal appellate courts to create an administrative system that sacrifices justice for efficiency. Today, motions and staff attorneys play a critical role in sifting through thousands of appeals.”
As Diarmuid F. O’Scannlain notes, this backlog leads to litigants waiting a very long time for a decision. It takes, “on average, nineteen months” from the time the notice of appeal is filed until the opinion is delivered in the Ninth Circuit. Further, “a party who files suit in a district court within the Ninth Circuit can expect to wait nearly forty months before his case is finally resolved on appeal.”
The article has very useful charts, including the number of filings by Court of Appeal; median time interval in cases terminated after hearing/submission of notice of appeal until disposition; and number of appeals terminated after oral hearing.