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January 2011

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


The Federal District Courts

Civil filings in the U.S. district courts rose 2 percent, increasing by 6,498 cases to 282,895. Cases filed with the United States as plaintiff or defendant remained stable, decreasing by 107 cases to 43,037.

Filings of federal question cases (i.e., actions under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States in which the United States is not a party in the case) climbed 2 percent to 138,655 as the courts received more cases related to consumer credit, civil rights, labor laws, Social Security, and foreclosures. Many of these cases arose out of the economic downturn. Filings of diversity of citizenship cases (i.e., cases between citizens of different states) rose 4 percent to a new record of 101,202. Most of these cases addressed claims of personal injury or product liability. Filings of multidistrict litigation related to asbestos that were transferred to the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and severed into separate filings grew 2 percent to 48,588.

Criminal case filings (including transfers) rose 2 percent to 78,428, and the number of defendants in those cases also grew 2 percent to reach an all-time high of 100,366. Immigration offenses accounted for much of the criminal caseload as filings of immigration cases increased 9 percent to 28,046 and the number of defendants in those cases increased 8 percent to 29,149. The majority of immigration cases—73 percent—were filed in the five southwestern border districts. Most of the immigration cases—83 percent—involved charges of improper reentry by aliens.

Filings of fraud cases also set a new record. Cases grew 12 percent to 9,371, and the number of defendants in those cases rose 13 percent to 12,639. Significant increases were reported for offenses related to identification documents and information, most of which involved false documents and information presented by illegal immigrants. Filings of cases involving drug offenses decreased 5 percent to 15,785, and the number of defendants in those cases declined 2 percent to 29,410.