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Civil Rights Complaints in U.S. District Courts, 1990-98

ADVANCE FOR RELEASE AT 4:30 P.M. EST                     BJS
SUNDAY, JANUARY 16, 2000                        202/307-0784 

     WASHINGTON, D.C. -- More than 42,000 complaints
alleging civil rights violations, such as discrimination in
employment, housing, welfare benefits and voting rights were
filed during 1998 in  U.S. district courts, the Justice
Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) announced
today.  Between 1990 and 1998 the number of such cases more
than doubled; this growth was largely attributable to
employment cases between private parties, which rose from
nearly 7,000 cases in 1990 to more than 21,000 in 1998.
     Federal civil rights cases accounted for about 9
percent of all civil cases filed in U.S. district courts in
1990, but by 1998 they accounted for 17 percent of all
federal civil cases.  During the same years the percentage
of civil rights-related complaints terminated by trial
verdicts dropped from 8 percent to 5 percent, while
dismissals increased from 66 percent to 71 percent.  
     Trial verdicts decided by juries went from 48 percent
of all civil rights trials in 1990 to 77 percent in 1998.
     During the 1990-1998 period plaintiffs won just under
a third of civil rights trials on average, and the
percentage awarded monetary damages declined from 83 percent
in 1990 to 76 percent in 1998.  The percentage of plaintiffs
who won their cases and were awarded $10 million or more,
increased from 1 percent in 1990 to 9 percent in 1998.  In
1998 the median awards ranged from $137,000 in employment
cases to $65,000 in housing cases. 
     On average, plaintiffs won 35 percent of jury trials
annually, compared to 23 percent of the trials decided by
     Employment discrimination cases nearly tripled between
1990 and 1998, increasing from 8,413 filings to 23,735. 
Housing and accommodation cases (allegations of
discrimination in the rental, sale or financing of housing
and public accommodation in restaurants and hotels) rose
from 341 to 838 cases in the period, while welfare
discrimination complaints declined from 129 to 66 cases. 
Voting rights complaints peaked in 1992 but remained fairly
constant during the rest of the period, averaging about 220
     Civil rights complaints filed by state and federal
prison inmates increased from 25,992 in 1990 to 41,679 in
1995.  Following the enactment of the Prison Litigation
Reform Act, they declined to 41,215 in 1996 and continued
down to 26,462 by 1998.
     The special report, "Civil Rights Complaints in U.S.
District Courts, 1990-98" (NCJ-173427) , was written by BJS
statistician Marika F.X. Litras.  Single copies may be
obtained from the BJS  fax-on-demand system by dialing
301/519-5550, listening to the complete menu and  selecting
document number 185.  Or call the BJS clearinghouse number:
1-800-732-3277.  Fax orders for mail delivery to 410/792-
4358.  The BJS Internet site is:
     Additional criminal justice materials can be obtained
from the Office of Justice Programs 
homepage at:

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After hours contact: Stu Smith at 301/983-9354

Date Published: January 16, 2000