The number of state trial judges, who handle most criminal cases in the U.S., increased by about 2,500 in a recent 17-year span but is not keeping pace with population increases, reports the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. In a new study of state courts, the bureau says there were 26,557 trial judges in 2004, but the number per 100,000 population dropped from 9.9 to 9.1 between 1987 and 2004. The number of states with a drug court program jumped from none in 1987 to 49 in 2004, the report said. Only South Dakota lacked such a program.
Most states still have court systems that are fragmented among the state, county, and municipal levels, BJS said. Only 10 states had unified their court systems by 2004: California, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. The report said that 23 states had sentencing commissions in 2004, up from 17 in 1998 but lower than the 25 total of 1993.