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Filings in the Federal Judiciary Continued to Grow in Fiscal Year 2010

March 15, 2011

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Judicial Caseload Indicators 12-Month Periods Ending September 30, 2010

Judicial Caseload Indicators 12-Month Periods Ending September 30, 2010

In fiscal year 2010, the federal district courts saw continued growth in civil, criminal, and bankruptcy filings, as well as the number of pretrial services cases and persons under supervision. This continues a decade-long trend of growth in these filings. Only the total number of appeals filed declined, pulled down  by slight drops in criminal and administrative agency appeals. The number of civil appeals filed remained relatively unchanged.

Federal court caseload statistics for fiscal year 2010 were released today by the Administrative Office of the United States Courts. Complete statistics for FY 2010, which ran from October 1, 2009, to September 30, 2010, are now available in Judicial Business of the United States Courts, at http://www.uscourts.gov/Statistics/JudicialBusiness.aspx.

U.S. Courts of Appeals

Filings in the regional courts of appeals dropped 3 percent to 55,992 in FY 2010, due to a 7 percent drop in criminal appeals to 12,797 and a 9 percent drop in administrative agency appeals to 7,813. Bankruptcy appeals declined 15 percent to 678, the smallest number filed since 1982. Civil appeals remained stable, dropping by just 27 appeals to 30,940. Original proceedings in the courts of appeals increased 2 percent to 3,764.

Prisoner petitions fell 3 percent to 15,789. Appeals involving pro se litigants declined 2 percent to 27,209.

U.S. District Courts

Filings of civil and criminal cases in the U.S. district courts grew 2 percent to 361,323.

Civil Filings

Civil filings rose 2 percent to 282,895, or 417 civil filings per authorized judgeship in 2010. There were 408 civil filings per authorized judgeship in 2009.

Filings of diversity of citizenship cases (i.e. cases between citizens of different states) grew 4 percent to an all-time high of 101,202.

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) rose 2 percent to 138,655. The growth in these filings occurred chiefly as a result of a 31 percent jump in consumer credit filings (up by 1,922 cases), a combined 8 percent increase in civil rights employment and Americans with Disabilities Act cases (up by 1,130 cases), a 13 percent increase in filings under the Fair Labor Standards Act (up by 759 cases), a 33 percent rise in foreclosure cases (up by 499 cases), a 6 percent rise in protected property rights actions (up by 563 cases), and a 15 percent increase in bankruptcy appeals (up 288 cases).

Criminal Filings

Filings of criminal cases (including transfers) increased 2 percent to 78,428. The number of criminal defendants (including transfers) also rose 2 percent to 100,366, surpassing the previous record of 97,982 set in 2009.  Proceedings were concluded against 98,311 defendants, 91 percent of whom were convicted, with 89 percent pleading guilty.

Immigration cases, which climbed 9 percent to 28,046, constituted 36 percent of all criminal cases filed, compared to 34 percent in 2009.  The majority of immigration filings involved improper reentry of aliens, and 73 percent of all immigration cases were filed in the District of Arizona, the Southern District of California, the District of New Mexico, and the Southern and Western Districts of Texas.  

Filings addressing fraud grew 12 percent to 9,371 for cases, and rose 13 percent to 12,639 for defendants in these cases.

Twenty percent of all criminal cases were drug offenses, compared to 22 percent in 2009. Cases involving drug offenses decreased 5 percent to 15,785, and defendants in those cases declined 2 percent to 29,410. Marijuana cases dropped 10 percent overall, but filings related to possession of marijuana increased, with cases climbing 26 percent to 1,248 and defendants rising 28 percent to 1,305. Drug cases involving non-marijuana offenses declined 3 percent to 10,817, and defendants in those cases fell 2 percent to 21,918.

Firearms and explosives cases, which account for 9 percent of total criminal case filings, declined 7 percent to 7,248.  Defendants in those cases dropped 6 percent to 8,376.

U.S. Bankruptcy Courts

In 2010, the U.S. bankruptcy courts received 1,596,355 bankruptcy petitions, a 14 percent increase over the number received in 2009. This year’s total was the highest since 2005, the last full year before the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 took effect. Nonbusiness petitions grew 14 percent while business petitions fell 1 percent.

Bankruptcy filings rose in 73 of the 90 bankruptcy courts, remained steady in one court (the Western District of Pennsylvania), and fell in 16 courts. The Eastern and Western Districts of Tennessee reported reductions of 6 percent in bankruptcy filings, the sharpest declines in total filings nationwide. Filings in all four California districts grew by more than 20 percent. The largest percentage increases in the nation were in the Central District of California and the Southern District of Florida, both of which had 42 percent more filings in FY 2010. Filings rose 36 percent in the District of Arizona. Of the 14 courts where filings rose by more than 20 percent, 11 were west of the Mississippi River.

Pretrial Services and Post-Conviction Supervision

Pretrial Services

The number of cases opened in the pretrial services system, including pretrial diversion cases, grew nearly 6 percent to 111,507 cases from 105,294 cases in 2009. Forty percent of the cases opened involved immigration as a major offense. Cases involving property offenses represented 14 percent of the cases opened, up from 13 percent in 2009. There was a two percent drop in cases involving firearms offenses and in cases in which the major offense charged involved drugs.

In 2010, Pretrial Services Officers prepared 107,256 pretrial services reports, an increase of more than 6 percent over 2009. A total of 32,500 defendants were released with specified conditions such as pretrial services supervision or location monitoring. Pretrial supervision was imposed on 89 percent of the defendants released. Substance abuse treatment and testing were ordered for 50 percent of the defendants.

Post-Conviction Supervision

The number of persons under post-conviction supervision on September 30, 2010, was 127,324, an increase of 2.5 percent over the 124,183 persons under supervision one year earlier. The 102,521 persons released from correctional institutions who were serving terms of supervised release on September 30, 2010, accounted for 81 percent of all persons under supervision. Cases involving probation imposed by district and magistrate judges fell less than 1 percent to 22,619 cases, accounting for 18 percent of all persons under post-conviction supervision. Parole cases dropped more than 5 percent to 2,058 cases.

Of the persons under post-conviction supervision at the end of the fiscal year, more than 47 percent had been convicted of drug offenses, 22 percent of property offenses, and nearly 12 percent of firearms offenses.