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Just the Facts: U.S. Courts of Appeals

Just the Facts is a new feature that highlights issues and trends in the Judiciary based on data collected by the Judiciary Data and Analysis Office (JDAO) of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. Comments, questions, and suggestions can be sent to the data team.

Crimes involving drugs fueled a 15 percent increase in criminal appeals last year even as the total volume of appeals continued to steadily decline, according to statistics from the JDAO. The vast majority of appeals are unsuccessful: Fewer than 9 percent of total appeals in 2015 resulted in reversals of lower courts, the figures show. Below are highlights of the data on the federal appellate system along with graphics that help explain the statistics.

Background

Definitions:  An appeal is a case seeking to have a higher court review and change a decision of a lower court or administrative agency. In the federal judiciary, most appeals are received by the 12 regional courts of appeals and decided by three-judge panels. These appeals courts also handle some original proceedings, which are cases not considered previously in lower courts.

Case termination refers to cases that were dismissed, settled or closed as a result of a final judgment by a court.

The charts include data from the 12 regional courts of appeals but not from the Federal Circuit, which maintains its own data.

Table 1
Filings in the U.S. Courts of Appeals
Sources of Appeals
Calendar Years 2011-2015
Source 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
TOTAL 55,817 57,335 55,822 53,799 53,266
U.S. District Courts
Criminal 12,453 13,419 11,697 10,476 12,099
Civil —Total 30,899 30,374 30,078 30,153 28,252
Civil — Prisoner Petitions 15,605 15,111 14,958 14,788 13,723
Civil — U.S. 2,757 2,665 2,622 2,694 2,678
Civil — Private 12,537 12,598 12,498 12,671 11,851
Other Appeals
Bankruptcy 677 893 823 835 826
Adminstrative Agency 7,786 8,285 8,038 6,810 7,023
Original Proceedings 4,002 3,787 4,433 4,951 4,495
Miscellaneous Applications N/A1 577 753 574 571
NOTE: This tables excludes data for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.
SOURCE: Table B-1,
Statistical Tables for the Federal Judiciary: Dec. 31, 2011-2015
1 Miscellaneous applications were not collected until 2012

Table 2
U.S. Courts of Appeals
Percentage Reversed
Calendar Years 2011-2015
  Total Criminal Prisoner Petitions U.S. Civil Private Civil Bankruptcy Adminstrative Appeals
2011 8.7 6.5 7.6 7.0 12.4 10.1 8.2
2012 6.7 6.9 3.5 3.3 10.4 10.8 5.4
2013 6.8 5.8 3.2 2.6 11.8 10.8 7.5
2014 7.3 6.1 3.6 3.0 12.3 13.6 8.3
2015 8.6 6.9 4.6 4.2 14.2 24.4 7.8
Source: Table B-5, Statistical Tables for the Federal Judiciary, Dec. 31, 2011-2015

 

Table 3
U.S. Courts of Appeals
Terminations, by Sources of Appeals and Median Disposition Times
Calendar Years 2011-2015
Source 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
TOTAL 57,173 58,030 57,741 54,452 52,881
U.S. District Courts
Criminal 13,316 13,528 12,388 11,131 11,532
Civil--Total 31,430 31,145 30,769 29,547 28,191
Civil — Prisoner Petitions 16,526 15,831 15,642 14,852 13,886
Civil — U.S. 2,785 2,712 2,606 2,416 2,619
Civil — Private 12,119 12,602 12,521 12,279 11,686
Other Appeals          
Bankruptcy 702 709 808 834 828
Administrative Agency 7,640 8,431 8,780 7,243 7,399
Original Proceedings 4,085 3,648 4,475 5,006 4,262
Miscellaneous Applications N/A 569 521 691 669
 
Median Disposition Times (mos) 10.8 9.6 8.9 8.4 8.6
Source: Table B-1, Statistical Tables for the Federal Judiciary: Dec. 31, 2011-2015
NOTE: This table excludes data for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit