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January 2008

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This article is in the news archives --- for current news go to the Third Branch News.


Appendix Workload of the Courts

The Supreme Court of the United States

The total number of cases filed in the Supreme Court increased from 8,521 filings in the 2005 Term to 8,857 filings in the 2006 Term—an increase of 4 percent. The number of cases filed in the Court’s in forma pauperis docket increased from 6,846 filings in the 2005 Term to 7,132 filings in the 2006 Term—also a 4 percent increase. The number of cases filed in the Court’s paid docket increased from 1,671 filings in the 2005 Term to 1,723 filings in the 2006 Term—a 3 percent increase. During the 2006 Term, 78 cases were argued and 74 were disposed of in 67 signed opinions, compared to 87 cases argued and 82 disposed of in 69 signed opinions in the 2005 Term. No cases from the 2006 Term were scheduled for reargument in the 2007 Term.

The Federal Courts of Appeals

The number of appeals filed in the regional courts of appeals in fiscal year 2007 decreased by 12 percent to 58,410. All categories of appeals, except bankruptcy appeals, fell. The decline of the past two years was the result of a reduction in appeals from administrative agency decisions involving the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), as well as decreases in criminal appeals and federal prisoner petitions brought about by the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220 (2005). The decline is the second successive drop after the record level set in fiscal year 2005.

Across the nation, the number of criminal appeals dropped by 14 percent to 13,167 filings, approaching levels that existed before criminal appeals soared in response to the decision in Booker. The number of administrative agency appeals fell by 21 percent to 10,382, because of a reduction in the number of cases that the BIA completed in 2006. However, this drop has occurred in the context of a BIA caseload that reached a record level in 2005, and had expanded more than fourfold between 2001 and 2007. The number of civil appeals declined by 5 percent to 30,241. The overall number of prisoner petitions decreased by 8 percent to 15,472 filings, as filings by state prisoners declined. The number of original proceedings fell by 31 percent to 3,775 filings. This decline primarily stemmed from a reduction in filings of second or successive motions for permission to seek habeas corpus relief, which fell to levels similar to those reached before Booker.

The Federal District Courts

Civil filings in the U.S. district courts remained relatively stable, falling less than 1 percent, or 2,034 cases, to 257,507. Diversity of citizenship filings were chiefly responsible for this small decline as the number of cases in this category dropped by 7,751 or 10 percent. Diversity of citizenship filings were, in turn, disproportionately affected by a decrease of more than 11,000 personal injury cases related to asbestos and diet drugs in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Federal question filings grew 3 percent to 139,424 due to cases arising from personal injury, labor law, and contract disputes. The Southern District of New York reported an influx of more than 6,500 personal injury filings related to the terrorist attacks in New York City on September 11, 2001, and the Middle District of Florida had over 6,200 personal injury/product liability filings under multidistrict litigation number 1769, which involves claims that the antipsychotic drug Seroquel caused diabetes-related injuries. Labor law cases grew 13 percent, largely because of more than 2,400 Fair Labor Standards Act cases filed in the Northern District of Alabama. The plaintiffs in these cases allege unfair labor practices by a department store in that region.

Filings with the United States as plaintiff or defendant increased 3 percent (up 1,170 cases) to 45,464. Cases with the United States as defendant rose 2 percent (up 863 cases), as filings of statutory actions related to consumer credit increased 55 percent. Cases with the United States as plaintiff increased mostly as a result of a 12 percent (up 273 filings) rise in defaulted student loan cases. The national median time from filing to disposition for civil cases was 9.6 months, up more than 1 month from 8.3 months in 2006. This increase resulted from the disposition of more than 6,300 oil refinery explosion cases in the Middle District of Louisiana that have been pending more than three years.

The number of criminal cases filed in 2007 rose by 2 percent to 68,413 cases, and defendants in these cases increased 1 percent to 89,306. The median case disposition time for defendants declined slightly from 7.1 months in 2006 to 7.0 months in 2007, yet this disposition time remains 21 days longer than in 2004, an indication of the time that courts have needed to process post-Booker cases.

Property offense cases grew 7 percent to 12,621, and defendants in such cases rose 6 percent to 16,277. Fraud cases rose 13 percent to 8,101, and fraud defendants climbed 10 percent to 10,804. Immigration filings increased 2 percent to 16,722 cases and 17,948 defendants. The charge of improper reentry by an alien accounted for 74 percent of all immigration cases. Sex offense filings jumped 31 percent to 2,460 cases, and defendants in such cases climbed 30 percent to 2,572. The growth in sex offense filings stemmed primarily from filings related to sexually explicit materials, and to a lesser degree, from all other sex offenses. Traffic offense filings for both cases and defendants jumped 22 percent to 4,427 and 4,429, respectively. Drug cases dropped 2 percent to 17,046, and defendants charged with drug crimes fell 2% to 29,885. Filings of drug cases and defendants declined as filings associated with non-marijuana drugs fell.

The Bankruptcy Courts

Filings in the U.S. bankruptcy courts fell 28 percent from 1,112,542 in 2006 to 801,269 in 2007. This is the lowest number of bankruptcy cases filed since 1990, and is 55 percent below the record number of filings in 2005, when filings soared as debtors rushed to file before the October 17 implementation date of the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005. Nonbusiness filings dropped 29 percent, and business petitions fell 5 percent. Chapter 13 filings rose 14 percent, while filings under Chapter 7, Chapter 11, and Chapter 12 fell 42 percent, 2 percent, and 4 percent, respectively.

Pretrial Services

The number of defendants activated in pretrial services, including pretrial diversion cases, rose by nearly 2 percent from 96,479 in 2006 to 97,905 in 2007. As a result, the number of pretrial services reports prepared by Pretrial Services officers increased by 2 percent. The number of cases opened in 2007, inclusive of pretrial diversion cases, was less than 1 percent greater than the 97,317 opened in 2003. During that same period, the number of persons interviewed decreased nearly 4 percent from 66,824 individuals to 64,099.

Post-Conviction Supervision

The number of persons under post-conviction supervision in 2007 increased by 2 percent to 116,221 individuals. As of September 30, 2007, the number of individuals serving terms of supervised release after their release from a correctional institution totaled 89,497 and constituted 77 percent of all persons under postconviction supervision. During the previous year, persons serving terms of supervised release were 75 percent of all those under post-conviction supervision. Persons on parole fell more than 10 percent, from 2,876 individuals in 2006 to 2,575 individuals in 2007. Parole cases now account for less than 2 percent of post-conviction cases. Because of a continuing decline in the imposition of sentences of probation by both district court judges and magistrate judges, the number of persons on probation decreased by 5 percent to 23,974 individuals. That figure represented 21 percent of all persons under post-conviction supervision. Proportionately, the number of individuals under post-conviction supervision for a drug related offense remained unchanged from a year ago at 44 percent.

From 2003 to 2007, the number of persons under post-conviction supervision grew by 5 percent, an increase of 5,600 individuals. The number of persons released from correctional institutions who served terms of supervised release increased by 18 percent over the same time period.