The Life and Times of the Big Six, or, The Federal Courts Since the Good Old Days

25 Pages Posted: 3 Sep 2009

See all articles by Marc Galanter

Marc Galanter

University of Wisconsin Law School, Madison


In this article, Professor Marc Galanter challenges the notion that increases in the caseload of the federal courts reflect a general increased litigiousness on the part of the American public. He examines civil filings in federal district courts in six categories of cases that he calls the 'Big Six': civil rights, prisoner petitions, social security, recovery (mainly recovery of overpayments of veterans' benefits and of defaulted student loans), other contracts, and torts. He finds that the increase in litigation is not general over these areas; instead, the incidence of some kinds of cases is growing while that of others is falling. Professor Galanter suggest that different subpopulations of cases respond to specific conditions rather than to global changes and that control of the federal court caseload requires study of these conditions and of the effects on litigation that the cases themselves have.

Keywords: federal courts, increased litigation, litigation, caseload

JEL Classification: K41

Suggested Citation

Galanter, Marc S., The Life and Times of the Big Six, or, The Federal Courts Since the Good Old Days. Wisconsin Law Review, 1988, Univ. of Wisconsin Legal Studies Research Paper Archival Collection, Available at SSRN:

Marc S. Galanter (Contact Author)

University of Wisconsin Law School, Madison ( email )

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