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360. U.S. District Courts -- Civil rights-Related Complaints and Disposition

[Covers civil rights complaints related to employment, housing, welfare, or voting rights, but excludes prisoner petitions]

Complaints Disposition
Jurisdiction Percent of cases Judgment
Year disposed
Cases involving
U.S. Government Dismissed
Private Cases Total Trial
Total Plaintiff Defendant cases disposed Total Settled
Total Total Total
1990 18,793 747 1,736 16,310 17,811 65.6 30.7 34.4 7.8
1991 19,892 816 1,532 16,992 17,975 67.2 31.5 32.9 7.6
1992 24,233 639 1,773 21,821 25,094 65.9 31.5 34.1 7.3
1993 27,655 747 1,970 24,938 23,416 67.5 31.5 32.4 6.6
1994 32,622 718 2,268 29,636 26,596 69.4 34.8 30.6 6.7
1995 36,600 668 2,358 33,574 30,175 69.4 33.4 30.6 6.0
1996 42,007 486 2,433 39,088 34,986 69.7 33.7 30.3 5.7
1997 43,278 561 2,356 40,361 38,131 70.5 34.2 29.5 5.2
1998 42,354 672 2,366 38,835 40,185 70.9 35.2 29.2 4.9

Source: U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, Civil Rights Complaints in Civil Rights Complaints in U.S. District Courts, 1990-98, series NCJ 173427, January 2000.

* Methodology

The primary source of data presented in this report is the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts Civil Master File. Data tabulations were prepared from the BJS staff analysis of source agency data sets. The Federal civil rights categories used in this report are based on the codes established by the Administrative Office of the United States Courts (AOUSC). Case level information is provided by individual U.S. district courts, which submit data to the AOUSC. As a result, no detailed information is available about civil rights-related cases coded as "other." For civil rights cases that involved more than one action filed, the AOUSC instructs the plaintiff's attorney, if the cause fits more than one nature of suit, to select the most definitive. It is the first nature of the suit code that was used in the analysis for this report.

For civil rights-related complaints where more than one basis of jurisdiction applies, the case was coded according to the highest priority jurisdiction. Cases in which the U.S. Government is the plaintiff have the highest priority, followed by U.S. Government as defendant, then Federal questions.

Calculations pertaining to trial winners and their award amounts were based on cases for which the winner and award amount was known and does not include instances where both parties won the case in part. Differences between known amounts and those unknown are not quantifiable. Winners were unknown in less than 1% of trial cases yearly from 1990 to 1998. In 4% or fewer of cases disposed of by trial per year, both the plaintiff and defendant won the case.

Although the courts record the title and section of the U.S. code for each case, this data field is not required by the AOUSC Statistics Division. It is not recommended for statistical analysis. For a more detailed explanation of the difficulties associated with the title and section fields of the AOUSC civil file, see the Report to the Subcommittee on Judicial Statistics on "Increase in Civil Rights Filings," prepared by the Analytical Services Office of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. * Selected Federal civil rights statutes


The Civil Rights Acts of 1866 and 1871 (42 USC Sec. 1983; 42 USC Sec. 1981). Following the U.S. Civil War (1860-65), these civil rights acts were established to enforce the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The 1866 act prohibits racial discrimination in the making and enforcement of contracts among public and private employers. The 1871 act deals with civil rights violations by government entities. In recent years, these civil rights acts increasingly have been used in employment discrimination cases.

The Equal Pay Act of 1963 (29 USC Sec. 201) requires employers to pay men and women equal pay for equal working conditions.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 USC Sec. 2000) prohibits employers with 15 employees or more from discriminating on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (29 USC Sec. 621-634) prohibits discrimination on the basis of age against persons 40 years of age or older. This act applies to employers with 20 employees or more. This Act was amended by the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act in 1990 (29 USC Sec. 626f) to ensure that older workers have complete and accurate information about their benefits and are not pressured into waiving their rights under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA).

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (29 USC Sec. 793-794) prohibits government contractors with contracts of $2,500 or more from discriminating against individuals with physical or mental handicaps.

In addition, government contracts pursuant to Executive Order 11246 must contain an equal opportunity clause and must develop and maintain an affirmative action plan. Vietnam veterans may benefit from affirmative action plans in government contracts under the Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974, and the employment of aliens is dealt with in the Immigration Reform and Control Act.

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 (42 USC Sec. 2000) amended Title VII to prohibit discrimination against employees or job applicants on the basis of pregnancy and required employers to treat pregnant employees in the same way as employees with other medical disabilities.

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (29 USC Sec. 12101-12213) prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in employment, public services, and public accommodations.

The Civil Rights Act of 1991 (42 USC Sec. 2000e) amended several of the Federal employment discrimination laws including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Civil Rights Act of 1866, the (ADEA), the Rehabilitation Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The act, for example, amended Title VII and the ADA to provide the right to a jury trial and punitive damages (not to exceed $300,000); it amended the Civil Rights Act of 1866 to prohibit racial harassment in the workplace and in post-hire employment conduct rather than just in hiring and promotions.

Housing and accommodations

The Civil Rights Act of 1866 (42 USC Sec. 1982) ensures that all citizens of the United States shall have the same right, in every State and Territory, as is enjoyed by white citizens to inherit, purchase, lease, sell, hold, and convey real and personal property.

The Fair Housing Act (42 USC Sec. 3601-3619) prohibits discrimination in various types of housing transactions such as sales, renting, and financing, on the basis of race, religion, sex, or national origin.

The Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 expanded the Fair Housing Act to prohibit discriminatory housing practices based on handicap and familial status and provided for enhanced government enforcement of the act, including the recovery of monetary penalties in cases where discrimination is found.

The Equal Credit Opportunity Act (15 USC Sec. 1691) prohibits creditors from discriminating against credit applicants on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, age, because all or part of the applicant's income derives from any public assistance program, or because the applicant has in good faith exercised any right under the Consumer Credit Protection Act.

Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 USC Sec. 2000) prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, and national origin in places of public accommodation, such as hotels, restaurants, and certain places of entertainment.


The Voting Rights Act of 1965 (42 USC Sec. 1973 to 1973bb-1) protects racial and language minorities from discrimination in the electoral process and from being denied the fair opportunity to elect candidates of their choice. The Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act of 1984 (42 USC Sec. 1973ee to 1973ee-6) ensures access for handicapped and elderly individuals to polling places for Federal elections.

The Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act of 1986 (42 USC Sec. 1973ff to 1973ff-6) enables members of the Armed Forces and other U.S. citizens who are abroad to register and vote absentee in presidential and congressional elections.

The National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (42 USC Sec. 1973gg to 1973gg-10), commonly referred to as the Motor Voter law, improves access to voter registration by requiring States to provide simultaneous voter registration and driver's license applications, provide a mail-in application, and make registration available at various government agencies.


These tables are based on figures supplied by the United States Census Bureau, U.S. Department of Commerce and are subject to revision by the Census Bureau.

Copyright © 2006 Photius Coutsoukis and Information Technology Associates, all rights reserved.