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Federal Judicial Caseload Statistics 2013

Most areas of the federal court system had reduced caseload activity during this reporting period.

Filings remained stable in the U.S. courts of appeals, falling less than 1 percent. In the U.S. district courts, civil case filings decreased 5 percent, and the number of defendants charged with criminal offenses dropped 7 percent. The U.S. bankruptcy courts had 14 percent fewer petitions filed. The number of persons under supervision by the federal probation system on March 31, 2013, was nearly unchanged from one year earlier. The number of pretrial services cases activated in the past 12 months declined 10 percent.

U.S. Courts of Appeals

Filings in the 12 regional courts of appeals fell by 171 appeals to 56,453. Reductions in civil and criminal appeals offset growth in appeals of administrative agency decisions, original proceedings, and bankruptcy appeals.

Criminal appeals dropped 3 percent to 12,674. This occurred largely as a result of a 4 percent decline in appeals related to drug offenses, which had increased 13 percent in 2012.

  • Seventy-six percent of criminal appeals involved four offense categories: drugs, immigration, firearms and explosives, and fraud.

Civil appeals fell 2 percent to 30,035.

  • Prisoner petitions dropped 3 percent, and civil appeals not filed by prisoners decreased 2 percent.
Appeals Court Filings Percent Change Over Time
  Since 2004 Since 2009 Since 2012
Total Filings -6.7 -6.5 -0.3
Civil Appeals -10.9  -4.2  -2.4
Criminal Appeals  5.1  -13.0  -2.8
Administrative Agency Appeals  -18.8  -18.5  0.5
Bankruptcy Appeals  4.8  26.8  26.6
Original Proceedings  23.2  27.9  17.9

Administrative agency appeals climbed by 41 appeals to 8,229, mainly because appeals of decisions by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) rose 3 percent.

  • BIA appeals accounted for 85 percent of administrative agency appeals and constituted the largest category of administrative agency appeals in each circuit except the D.C. Circuit.

Original proceedings grew 18 percent to 4,601.

  • Seventy percent of original proceedings involved second or successive motions for writs of habeas corpus. Twenty-seven percent of original proceedings involved writs of mandamus.

Bankruptcy appeals rose 27 percent to 914.

Terminations of appeals increased 3 percent to 58,459. Pending appeals fell 5 percent to 42,188.

For data on the activity of the appeals courts, see the B series of the appendix tables.

Bankruptcy Appellate Panels

The Bankruptcy Appellate Panels (BAPs) reported that filings decreased by 201 appeals to 976 (down 17 percent).

  • Filings fell in four of the five circuits with BAPs.
  • Filings dropped by 27 appeals (down 34 percent) in the Sixth Circuit, by 29 (down 32 percent) in the Eighth Circuit, by 147 (down 19 percent) in the Ninth Circuit, and by 4 (down 3 percent) in the Tenth Circuit.
  • Filings rose by 6 appeals (up 7 percent) in the First Circuit.

For data on the activity of the BAPs, see Tables B-10 and B-11 in the appendix.

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit

Filings in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit dropped 2 percent to 1,324.

  • Filings involving the Merit Systems Protection Board had the largest numeric decrease, a reduction of 33 appeals to 239 (down 12 percent).
  • Appeals of decisions by the U.S. district courts had the largest numeric growth, an increase of 31 appeals to 504 (up 7 percent).

Terminations of appeals remained stable, rising by 2 appeals to 1,287. The pending caseload climbed 4 percent to 992 (up 37 appeals).

For data on the activity of the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, see Table B-8 of the appendix tables.

Federal Circuit Filings Percent Change Over Time
  Since 2004 Since 2009 Since 2012
Total Filings  -13.0  -7.0  -2.4
U.S. District Court Appeals  3.7  9.6  6.6
Merit System Protection Board Appeals  -35.8  -34.9  -12.1
U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims Appeals  -28.5  15  -15.4
U.S. Court of Federal Claims Appeals  -11  -21.7  10.2

U.S. District Courts

Combined filings for civil cases and criminal defendants in the U.S. district courts decreased by 20,529 (down 5 percent) to 363,914. Terminations declined by 40,713 (down 10 percent) to 348,590. As filings exceeded terminations, the total for pending cases and defendants increased by 15,732 (up 4 percent) to 386,487.

Civil Filings

Civil filings in the U.S. district courts fell 5 percent (down 13,310 cases) to 271,950. This occurred mostly because diversity of citizenship filings (i.e., cases between citizens of different states) declined 15 percent to 81,203 and filings with the United States as plaintiff dropped 22 percent to 8,009.

  • Diversity of citizenship filings involving personal injury/product liability decreased 27 percent to 38,583.
  • In the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, a reduction of more than 29,000 multidistrict litigation cases involving asbestos drove the national decline in diversity of citizenship filings.
  • Filings of cases with the United States as plaintiff fell as cases involving defaulted student loans dropped 50 percent to 1,954.

Federal question filings remained stable, growing by 23 cases to 143,019.

  • Civil rights employment cases decreased 8 percent to 11,718.
  • Labor law filings related to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act fell 9 percent to 7,825, and those involving labor management relations declined 27 percent to 899.
  • Foreclosure cases decreased 6 percent to 7,371.
  • Prisoner petitions addressing prison conditions fell 4 percent to 7,852.
  • Intellectual property cases involving patents rose 32 percent to 5,839, and those involving copyrights jumped 48 percent to 3,553.

Filings of cases with the United States as defendant climbed 9 percent to 39,717.

  • Social Security filings grew 15 percent to 8,629, mostly because of a 13 percent increase in disability insurance claims and a 17 percent increase in supplemental security income claims.
  • Filings of prisoner petitions related to motions to vacate sentence climbed 26 percent to 8,625.
Civil Case Filings Percent Change Over Time
  Since 2004 Since 2009 Since 2012
Total Filings  6.3  5.2  -4.7
Federal Question Cases  -3.3  7.0 0
Diversity of Citizenship Cases  34.6  -1.5  -15.1
U.S. Defendant Cases  8.1  21.1  9.4
U.S. Plaintiff Cases  -25.1  -16.3  -22.4

Civil case terminations declined 12 percent to 254,619.

  • This reduction largely stemmed from decreases in terminations of personal injury/product liability cases related to asbestos in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (PA-E) and decreases in terminations of cases related to tobacco in the Middle District of Florida (FL-M).

Pending civil cases grew 7 percent to 280,281.

Detailed data on civil cases appear in the C series of the appendix tables.

Criminal Filings

Filings for criminal defendants (including transfers) dropped 7 percent (down 7,219 defendants to 91,964). Defendant filings decreased for every major offense category except violent offenses.

Filings involving drug offenses, which constituted 32 percent of all defendant filings, fell 8 percent to 29,190. Immigration offense filings, which accounted for 27 percent of all defendant filings, declined 8 percent to 24,483.

  • Seventy-four percent of immigration defendant filings occurred in the five southwestern border districts. They declined 36 percent in the District of Arizona, 13 percent in the Western District of Texas, and 11 percent in the Southern District of California.
  • Immigration filings grew 25 percent in the District of New Mexico and 10 percent in the Southern District of Texas.

Property offense filings, which amounted to 16 percent of all defendant filings, fell 9 percent to 14,962. Defendants charged with fraud offenses dropped 12 percent to 10,517.

Firearms and explosives offense filings decreased 5 percent to 8,356 and totaled 9 percent of defendant filings. Traffic offense filings dropped 9 percent to 3,337. Regulatory offense filings declined 11 percent to 1,952. Sex offense filings fell 4 percent to 3,335.

Defendants charged with violent offenses grew 7 percent to 2,843 due to increases in filings involving assault and carjacking.

Criminal Defendant Filings (Excluding Transfers) Percent Change Over Time
  Since 2004 Since 2004 Since 2004
Total Defendants Filed  -0.5  -3.8  -7.3
Immigration Defendants  45.6  -4.3  -7.9
Property Defendants  -6.6  -5.1  -8.9
Sex Offense Defendants  120.4  17.9  -4.1
Drug Defendants  -10.7  -0.8  -8.0
Firearms and Explosives Defendants  -21.9  -7.4  -5.2

Terminations for criminal defendants dropped 7 percent to 93,971. The number of criminal defendants pending declined 1 percent to 106,206.

For data on activity related to criminal defendants in the U.S. District Courts, see the D series of the appendix tables.

U.S. Bankruptcy Courts

Filings of bankruptcy petitions declined 14 percent to 1,170,324 (down 196,682). Of the 90 bankruptcy courts, 88 reported reductions in filings. Filings increased only in the Middle District of Alabama (up 2 percent) and the Eastern District of Missouri (up 1 percent).

Fewer petitions were filed under each major chapter of the bankruptcy code.

  • Chapter 7 filings fell 16 percent to 804,885.
  • Chapter 13 filings declined 10 percent to 355,081.
  • Chapter 11 filings dropped 13 percent to 9,811.
  • Chapter 12 filings decreased 24 percent to 463.

Petitions filed by debtors with predominantly business debts fell 19 percent to 37,552. Debtors with predominantly nonbusiness (i.e., consumer) debts filed 1,132,772 petitions, 14 percent fewer than the previous year. Consumer cases accounted for 97 percent of all bankruptcy petitions.

Terminations of bankruptcy cases declined 10 percent to 1,241,836. Because terminations exceeded filings, the number of cases pending on March 31 dropped 4 percent from the previous year’s total to 1,570,447.

Bankruptcy Court Filings Percent Change Over Time
  Since 2004 Since 2009 Since 2012
Total Filings  -29.3  -2.7  -14.4
Chapter 7 -31.6  -1.8  -16.0
Chapter 11 -15.8  -16.8  -13.5
Chapter 13 -23.8  -4.3  -10.4

After the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act (BAPCPA) took effect in October 2005, bankruptcy filings dropped sharply. In the 12 months ending March 31, 2007, the courts received 695,575 petitions. Thereafter, filings increased every year until 2011, when 1,571,183 petitions were filed. In each of the last two years, however, filings have declined. The total for 2013 is 25 percent below the post-BAPCPA peak reached in 2011, but 68 percent above the total for 2007.

For data on the activity of the bankruptcy courts, see the F series of the appendix tables.

Adversary Proceedings

Adversary proceedings are separate civil proceedings that are related to bankruptcy cases, including actions to object to or revoke discharges, to obtain injunctions or other equitable relief, and to determine the dischargeability of debt. Adversary proceedings may be associated with consumer bankruptcy cases, but most arise in business cases filed under chapter 11. They generally reflect the level of chapter 11 bankruptcy petitions filed two years earlier.

During the 12-month period ending March 31, 2013, filings of adversary proceedings decreased 20 percent to 48,517.

  • The largest numeric reduction occurred in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, where filings dropped by 457 to 605 (down 43 percent).
  • The largest percentage decline occurred in the Eastern District of Washington, where proceedings fell 64 percent (down 223 filings) to 123. The district previously had received numerous filings related to “mega cases” (i.e., bankruptcy cases involving at least $100 million in assets and 1,000 creditors), which have since been terminated. Filings in the court are now back to levels reported prior to 2012.

Terminations of adversary proceedings dropped 16 percent to 60,221. Pending adversary proceedings also dropped 16 percent, falling to 60,452.

For data on adversary proceedings filed in the bankruptcy courts, see Table F-8 in the appendix.

Post-Conviction Supervision

The number of persons under post-conviction supervision as of March 31, 2013, fell less than 1 percent from the prior year to 132,307 (down 22 persons). Persons serving terms of supervised release on that date following release from a correctional institution increased 1 percent to 109,051.

  • Eighty-two percent of persons under post-conviction supervision on March 31, 2013, were serving terms of supervised release, the same as one year earlier.
  • Sixteen percent of persons under post-conviction supervision were under supervision following the imposition of sentences of probation, and 1 percent were on parole.
Persons Under Post-Conviction Supervision Percent Change Over Time
  Since 2004 Since 2009 Since 2012
Under Supervision  17.6  7.9 0
Serving Terms of Supervised Release  41.2  12.0  1.0
On Probation  -28.0  -6.0  -4.3
On Parole  -56.6  -32.0  -10.4

Cases open on March 31, 2013, that involved probation imposed by district and magistrate judges decreased 4 percentfrom the previous year’s total to 22,489.

Persons on parole, special parole, military parole, and mandatory release on the last day of the reporting period declined 10 percent to 1,534.

The number of persons received for post-conviction supervision was 62,894, a decrease of 6 percent from the previous year.

Closings of post-conviction supervision cases (excluding transfers and deaths) grew from 54,355 in 2012 to 54,534 in 2013 (up 179 cases).

In addition to their supervision duties, probation officers conduct investigations and prepare comprehensive reports to aid judges in sentencing convicted defendants. The officers’ presentence reports contain detailed background information on defendants and discuss issues related to the advisory sentencing guidelines.

  • In 2013, probation officers wrote 74,862 presentence reports, a 7 percent decrease. Ninety-six percent of the presentence reports addressed offenses for which the U.S. Sentencing Commission has promulgated sentencing guidelines.

For data on post-conviction supervision activity, see the E series of the appendix tables.

Pretrial Services

The number of cases opened in the pretrial services system equaled 100,536, a 10 percent decrease from 2012.

  • A total of 1,284 pretrial diversion cases were activated, an increase of 39 percent from the previous year.
  • Defendants received for pretrial services supervision fell 5 percent to 27,164.
  • Defendants received for pretrial diversion supervision rose 6 percent to 1,405.

A total of 107,483 pretrial services cases were closed, a 3 percent reduction.

Pretrial services officers prepare reports for judges to use in determining whether to order the release or detention of defendants. They also provide information judges use in establishing appropriate conditions for released defendants.

  • Pretrial services officers interviewed 55,601 defendants (down 6 percent) and prepared 100,050 pretrial services reports (down 8 percent).
Pretrial Services Filings Percent Change Over Time
  Since 2004 Since 2009 Since 2012
Total Cases Activated  3.6  -0.7  -9.5
Pretrial Services Cases Activated  4.2  -0.7  -9.9
Reports  7.7  2.0  -7.8
Pretrial Diversion Cases Activated  -26.1  -0.5  38.5
Released on Supervision  -19.5  -6.2  -4.9
Pretrial Supervision  -19.3  -7.1  -5.4
Diversion Supervision  -22.3  13.7  5.7

For persons under pretrial supervision, officers monitored their compliance with release conditions set by the courts, made referrals for support services that offer alternatives to detention (such as substance abuse treatment), and informed the courts and U.S. attorneys of apparent violations of release conditions

  • Defendants with release conditions dropped 4 percent to 31,125.

For data on pretrial services activity, see the H series of the appendix table.