Georgia, D.C. Rank Last in Clearing Criminal Court Cases
Criminal court clearance rates—the rate at which a court clears cases from their docket—took a dive in 2020 as the pandemic shut down court systems across the country. The average rate went from somewhere between 95 and 100 percent to 87 according to numbers collected by the Court Statistics Project from the nonprofit National Center for State Courts.
But that is the national average. For certain locations, like Washington, D.C. and Maryland, the rate in 2020 was around 61 percent.
D.C. in particular regularly ranks towards the bottom in processing cases each year along with Georgia, with an average of 78 and 74 percent respectively.
Fulton County, Georgia data between 2019 and 2022 shows a criminal clearance rate of about 60 percent. Another Georgia county, Cherokee county, was honored in 2020 for a 244 percent clearance rate, implying that they had a substantial backlog prior to that.
There may be some discrepancy in the D.C. numbers. According to a 2016 annual report, D.C. listed a criminal clearance rate of 95 percent, although no other annual reports appear to publish clearance rate data for the city. Court Statistics data list the city's rate at below 80 percent for that year.
D.C.'s court system is unique in that the city does not prosecute many of the cases that are brought in the city. Federal attorneys prosecute most cases, particularly felonies, and a small office headed by the attorney general handles misdemeanors, like speeding tickets, and juvenile cases.
Other states also rank low, like California, Minnesota, and Delaware. Other states, like Hawaii (39 percent in 2012) and Arkansas (54 percent), sporadically show up at the bottom but have since recovered from their backlog.
At a point, Texas's court backlog during the pandemic led to the state to threaten withholding grant money to counties unless they cleared more cases.