Caseload is the number of cases that a judge current has to oversee in their courtroom or the number of cases a lawyer has currently.
There are many legal cases heard by every judge in the United States. The courts are flooded with cases, and the legislators have made every effort to divide up the courts to hear only certain types of cases. In spite of all of these efforts, courtrooms are still full, and judges have too many cases to oversee. Having too many cases per judge is an important issue because it causes many cases to be rushed, that should have more time spent on them. If a judge has too many cases, critical mistakes can be made that can often impact an individual's fair access to a trial, particularly in criminal cases.
There are many different tiers of lawyers in terms of what fees they charge. The most expensive lawyers are still only able to take on a certain number of clients. Lawyers that serve low-income clients usually are at their maximum capacity in terms of their current caseload. If any lawyer takes on too many clients, they are risking their quality of legal representation, which is not in their client's best interest. Lawyers are also bound by the moral code of the legal profession to provide diligent and competent representation. If their current caseload is too high, they are jeopardizing violating this important rule and can be subject to malpractice suits if a mistake is made, and they make a serious mistake from being too overburdened with clients.
Criminal cases can be very problematic. The reason for this is that an individual’s rights to freedom can potential be taken away. If there are too many criminal cases for lawyers that are working at non-profits or for low-income clients, it can significantly affect the quality of representation that a defendant can receive. The U.S. Constitution does protect a defendant's right to an attorney in a criminal case and many times, low-income defendants are not able to get the quality legal representation on their cases since the attorneys that focus on low-income niches are too overburdened with cases. Caseloads have a significant impact on criminal cases, and the problem is not one that is easily solved since many attorneys prefer to not work in this area of law.
In the legal profession, lawyers are required to complete a certain amount of pro bono hours per year to maintain a current license to practice law. Each state has different regulations regarding the number of hours required to complete each year and which organizations a lawyer has to go to in order to complete their pro bono hours. While pro bono hours began as a way to give back to the community, they have also become a necessity to take on a portion of the caseload that attorneys have for defendants who cannot afford legal representation in criminal cases. In addition to pro bono hours, there have been efforts to divide up lawyer's caseloads and judges' caseloads by changing scheduling or allowing more preparation time. This problem is something that is far from being resolved in the United States and is something that does need to be evaluated to see if there are any possible ways to improve the existing system.
A caseload is the current number of cases either a judge or a lawyer has. Caseloads are very important because they can have a direct relationship with the quality of legal representation that a defendant receives or the proper time a judge has to spend hearing their case. Caseloads need to be drastically reduced for both judges and lawyers in the United States to improve the criminal justice system for higher quality representation and the possibility to avoid frivolous legal mistakes in the courtroom that are caused by courts and judges being overextended.