Information for the national caseload databases comes from published and unpublished sources supplied by state court administrators and appellate court clerks. Published data typically come from official state court annual reports, which vary widely in form and detail. Although constituting the most reliable and valid data available at the state level, they arrive from statistical data filed monthly, quarterly, or annually by numerous local jurisdictions and, in most states, several trial and appellate court systems. Some states either do not publish an annual report or publish only limited caseload statistics for either trial or appellate courts. The Court Statistics Project receives unpublished data from those states in a wide range of forms, including internal management memos, computer-generated output, and the projects statistical and jurisdictional profiles, which are updated by state court administrative office staff. Extensive telephone contact and follow-up correspondence are used to collect missing data, confirm the accuracy of available data, and determine the legal jurisdiction of each court. Information is also collected concerning the number of judges per court or court system (from annual reports, offices of state court administrators, and appellate court clerks); the state population (based on Bureau of the Census revised estimates); and special characteristics regarding subject matter jurisdiction and court structure. Appendix 2 lists the source of each states 2006 caseload statistics.
The CSP has evolved since 1975 by providing more consistent definitions of key terms and parameters for counting. The State Court Model Statistical Dictionary (updated version published in 1989) provided the first set of common terminology, definitions, and usage for reporting appellate and trial court caseloads. Terms for reporting data on case disposition methods were provided in the Dictionary and in other project publications. The classification scheme and associated definitions served as a model framework for developing comparable and useful data. Once a set of recommended terms was adopted, the projects focus shifted to assessing the comparability of caseload data reported by the courts to those terms. It became particularly important to detail the subject matter jurisdiction and methods of counting cases in each state court. Problems related to categorizing and counting cases in the trial and appellate courts were resolved through the development of the 1984 State Trial Court Jurisdiction Guide for Statistical Reporting and the 1984 State Appellate Court Jurisdiction Guide for Statistical Reporting. The State Court Guide to Statistical Reporting (Guide), originally published in 2004, represents the Court Statistics Project's new data reporting format. Building upon the State Court Model Statistical Dictionary, the Guide includes expanded case type classification matrices, definitions for case types that were not included in the original Dictionary, and more detailed manner of disposition categories. The Guide serves as the model reporting framework for developing comparable and useful data.