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Federal Judicial Caseload Statistics 2014

This report presents data on the work of the appellate, district, and bankruptcy courts and on the probation and pretrial services systems. Below is a summary of key findings provided for the year ending March 31, 2014.

  • Filings in the U.S. courts of appeals fell 1.5 percent.
  • The Bankruptcy Appellate Panels (BAPs) reported that filings decreased 6 percent.
  • Filings in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit grew 2 percent.
  • In the U.S. district courts, civil case filings increased 12 percent, but filings for defendants charged with criminal offenses decreased 6 percent.
  • The U.S. bankruptcy courts received 11 percent fewer petitions.
  • Filings of adversary proceedings decreased 16 percent.
  • The number of persons under supervision by the federal probation system on March 31, 2014, changed little from the total recorded one year earlier.
  • The number of pretrial services cases activated in the past 12 months declined less than 1 percent.

U.S. Courts of Appeals

Filings in the 12 regional courts of appeals fell by 830 to 55,623 (down 1.5 percent). Reductions occurred in criminal appeals, appeals of administrative agency decisions, and bankruptcy appeals. Civil appeals remained steady. Filings of original and other proceedings increased.

Criminal appeals dropped 10 percent to 11,431. This occurred largely as a result of a 20 percent decline in appeals related to drug offenses.

  • Seventy-five percent of criminal appeals involved four offense categories: drugs, immigration, firearms and explosives, and property offenses (including fraud).

Civil appeals edged up by 37 filings to 30,072.

  • Prisoner petitions increased 1 percent, but civil appeals not filed by prisoners decreased 1 percent.
Appeals Court Filings Percent Change Over Time
  Since 2005 Since 2010 Since 2013
Total Filings -15.0 -2.1 -1.5
Civil Appeals -8.2 -3.6 -0.1
Criminal Appeals -20.2 -12.5 -9.8
Administrative Agency Appeals -41.3 -6.3 -8.7
Bankruptcy Appeals -9.9 8.0 -13.1
Original and Other Proceedings1 25.4 53.6 26.3
1 On January 1, 2014, the category of Original and Other Proceedings replaced the category of Original Proceedings and includes miscellaneous cases previously excluded.

Administrative agency appeals fell 9 percent to 7,515, mainly because of a 5 percent decrease in appeals of decisions by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA).

  • BIA appeals accounted for 89 percent of administrative agency appeals and constituted the largest category of administrative agency appeals in each circuit except the D.C. Circuit.

Original and other proceedings grew 26 percent to 5,811. Some of the increase occurred because on January 1, 2014, this category was expanded to include miscellaneous applications, such as those under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1292(b) governing permission to appeal, 1453(c) class actions, 158(d) bankruptcy appeals from a district court or bankruptcy appellate panel, Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(f) appeals of orders granting or denying class-action certification, and other proceedings.

  • Sixty-four percent of original and other proceedings involved second or successive motions for writs of habeas corpus, 23 percent involved writs of mandamus, and 12 percent were miscellaneous cases.
  • Of the 690 miscellaneous cases reported, class actions accounted for 64 percent of the total.

Bankruptcy appeals dropped 13 percent to 794.

Terminations of appeals decreased 4 percent to 56,354. Pending appeals fell 2 percent to 41,588.

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

Bankruptcy Appellate Panels

The Bankruptcy Appellate Panels (BAPs) reported that filings decreased 6 percent to 914 (down 62 appeals). Filings fell in three of the five circuits with BAPs. Two circuits had increases in filings.

Filings dropped by 28 appeals (down 22 percent) in the Tenth Circuit, by 27 appeals (down 28 percent) in the First Circuit, and by 19 appeals (down 3 percent) in the Ninth Circuit.
Filings grew by 11 appeals in the Sixth Circuit (up 21 percent) and by 1 appeal in the Eighth Circuit (up 2 percent).

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

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit

Filings in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit grew 2 percent to 1,350.

Appeals arising from the U.S. district courts had the largest numeric increase, a rise of 52 appeals to 556 (up 10 percent).
Appeals of decisions by the Merit Systems Protection Board had the largest numeric decrease, a drop of 39 appeals to 200 (down 16 percent).
Appeals of decisions by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office grew 21 percent to 161.

Terminations of appeals rose 5 percent to 1,345 (up 58 appeals). The pending caseload remained stable, growing by 7 appeals to 999.

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

Federal Circuit Filings Percent Change Over Time
  Since 2005 Since 2010 Since 2013
Total Filings -17.5 2.3 2.0
U.S. District Court Appeals 11.9 25.2 10.3
U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Appeals 120.5 83.0 21.1
U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board Appeals -61.2 -36.9 -16.3

U.S. District Courts

Combined filings for civil cases and criminal defendants in the U.S. district courts grew by 26,611 (up 7 percent) to 390,525. Terminations remained fairly stable, dropping by 1,872 (down less than 1 percent) to 350,462. As filings exceeded terminations, the total for pending cases and defendants increased by 39,873 (up 10 percent) to 426,654.

Civil Filings

Civil filings in the U.S. district courts grew 12 percent (up 31,870 cases) to 303,820. This occurred primarily because diversity of citizenship filings (i.e., cases between citizens of different states) jumped 30 percent to 105,471.

  • Diversity of citizenship filings involving personal injury/product liability climbed 69 percent to 65,186.
  • The Southern District of West Virginia reported an increase of more than 25,000 multidistrict litigation cases involving pelvic repair system products, which fueled the national growth in diversity of citizenship filings.

Federal question filings rose 6 percent to 151,617.

  • Prisoner petitions rose 18 percent (up by 7,541 petitions) to 48,406. Prison condition cases surged 69 percent (up by 5,418 petitions) as one Arizona state prison inmate filed more than 5,400 petitions in both the District of Arizona and the Middle District of Tennessee. Prisoner civil rights petitions increased 7 percent (up by 1,088 petitions).
  • Contract filings grew 51 percent to 6,833 as insurance filings nearly tripled (up by 2,590 cases).
  • Intellectual property rights filings rose 4 percent (up by 464 cases) to 13,150 in response to increases in patent cases (up by 315 cases) and copyright cases (up by 243 cases).
  • Consumer credit filings declined 8 percent to 8,254.
  • Foreclosure filings dropped 30 percent to 1,352.
  • Civil rights filings fell 6 percent to 1,887, primarily due to a 15 percent decrease in employment cases (down by 1,753 cases).

Filings of cases with the United States as plaintiff dropped 9 percent to 7,262.

  • Cases involving defaulted student loans decreased 7 percent to 1,826, and cases involving drug-related seizures of property declined 18 percent to 1,035.

Filings of cases with the United States as defendant remained stable, decreasing less than 1 percent to 39,465.

  • Filings of prisoner petitions related to motions to vacate sentence declined 12 percent to 7,549, and habeas corpus petitions fell 5 percent to 2,520.
  • Social Security filings increased 5 percent to 19,611, chiefly due to a 7 percent increase in disability insurance claims and a 5 percent rise in supplemental security income claims.
Civil Case Filings Percent Change Over Time
  Since 2005 Since 2010 Since 2013
Total Filings -2.4 7.6 11.7
Federal Question Cases -11.8 11.1 6.0
Diversity of Citizenship Cases 28.1 2.6 29.8
U.S. Defendant Cases -7.2 13.6 -0.1
U.S. Plaintiff Cases -21.8 -14.6 -9.3

Civil case terminations increased 2 percent to 260,840.

  • Terminations of multidistrict litigation cases related to smoking cessation in the Northern District of Alabama, bacterial infection medication in the District of Minnesota, hernia patch products in the District of Rhode Island, and birth control and atrial fibrillation products in the Southern District of Illinois caused each of these courts to have more than 1,000 additional case terminations this year.
  • The District of Arizona terminated more than 1,000 prisoner petitions.

Pending civil cases grew 15 percent to 323,555, primarily as a result of heavier multidistrict litigation caseloads.

For data on activity related to civil cases in the district courts, see the C series of tables.

Criminal Filings

Filings for criminal defendants (including transfers) in the U.S. district courts declined 6 percent (down 5,259 defendants) to 86,705.

Filings involving drug offenses, which constituted 32 percent of total defendant filings, fell 6 percent to 27,353.

  • Defendants charged with marijuana offenses decreased 11 percent to 6,333.
  • Defendants charged with crimes involving drugs other than marijuana dropped 5 percent to 21,020.
Criminal Defendant Filings (Excluding Transfers) Percent Change Over Time
  Since 2005 Since 2010 Since 2013
Total Defendants Filed -6.4 -12.2 -5.7
Immigration Defendants 24.4 -17.8 -5.8
Property Defendants -9.0 -17.0 -7.7
Sex Offense Defendants 96.9 20.5 3.9
Drug Defendants -15.0 -8.1 -6.3
Firearms and Explosives Defendants -24.3 -5.3 -2.7

Defendants charged with immigration offenses, which accounted for 27 percent of all criminal defendant filings, declined 6 percent to 23,063.

  • Seventy-six percent of immigration defendant filings occurred in the five southwestern border districts. Filings decreased 28 percent in the Southern District of California, 4 percent in the Western District of Texas, and 3 percent in the District of Arizona.
  • Filings increased 20 percent in the District of New Mexico and 1 percent in the Southern District of Texas.

Defendants charged with property offenses fell 8 percent to 13,811.

  • Fraud defendants fell 13 percent to 9,595.

Defendant filings for firearms and explosives offenses dropped 3 percent to 8,131. Defendant filings for traffic offenses decreased 14 percent to 2,883 (this total does not include defendants charged with traffic crimes in petty offense cases disposed of by magistrate judges). Defendants charged with general offenses (i.e., public-order crimes considered contrary to social norms, such as money laundering) declined 9 percent to 2,089. Filings for violent crimes fell 4 percent to 2,738. Defendants charged with justice system offenses (i.e., crimes related to judicial proceedings, such as obstruction of justice or failure to appear) dropped 8 percent to 856.

Filings for defendants charged with sex crimes rose 4 percent to 3,465. Regulatory offense filings grew 7 percent to 2,081.

Terminations for criminal defendants dropped 5 percent to 89,622. As terminations exceeded filings, the number for defendants pending declined 3 percent to 103,099.

For data on activity related to criminal defendants in the district courts, see the D series of tables.

U.S. Bankruptcy Courts

Filings of bankruptcy petitions fell 11 percent, to 1,038,280 (down 132,044 petitions). Of the 90 bankruptcy courts, 82 reported declines in filings.

  • The greatest percentage increases were reported in the Districts of Puerto Rico (up 11 percent) and the Southern District of Mississippi (up 8 percent).
  • The greatest percentage decreases were reported in the Northern and Central Districts of California (down 30 percent and 28 percent, respectively).

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

  • Chapter 7 filings dropped 13 percent to 699,982.
  • Chapter 13 filings fell 7 percent to 329,256.
  • Chapter 11 filings decreased 13 percent to 8,564.
  • Chapter 12 filings declined 16 percent to 388.

Petitions filed by debtors with predominantly business debts declined 16 percent to 31,671. Debtors with predominantly nonbusiness (i.e., consumer) debts filed 1,006,609 petitions, 11 percent fewer than the previous year. Consumer cases accounted for 97 percent of all petitions.

Terminations of bankruptcy cases fell 7 percent to 1,149,282. Because terminations exceeded filings, the number of cases pending on March 31 declined 7 percent from the previous year’s total to 1,460,363.

Bankruptcy Court Filings Percent Change Over Time
  Since 2005 Since 2010 Since 2013
Total Filings -34.7 -32.2 -11.3
Chapter 7 -38.7 -36.4 -13.0
Chapter 11 20.4 -43.8 -12.7
Chapter 13 -25.5 -20.8 -7.3

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 three years, filings have declined. As a result, the 2014 filings are 34 percent below the post-BAPCPA peak reached in 2011, but 49 percent above the 2007 filing level.

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

Adversary Proceedings

Adversary proceedings are separate civil lawsuits that arise in 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 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, 2014, filings of adversary proceedings decreased 16 percent to 40,870.

Seventy-one of the 90 bankruptcy courts experienced declines in filings of adversary proceedings during this reporting period. The reductions in adversary proceedings were attributed to the overall drop in bankruptcy filings.

Terminations of adversary proceedings dropped 19 percent to 48,648. Pending adversary proceedings fell 13 percent 52,887.

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

Post-Conviction Supervision

The number of persons under post-conviction supervision as of March 31, 2014, fell less than 1 percent from the prior year to 131,827 (down 480 persons). Persons serving terms of supervised release on that date following release from a correctional institution increased 1 percent to 110,069.

Eighty-four percent of persons under post-conviction supervision on March 31, 2014, were serving terms of supervised release, compared to 82 percent one year earlier.
Fifteen 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 2005 Since 2010 Since 2013
Total Under Supervision 16.8 4.5 -0.4
Serving Terms of Supervised Release 34.7 9.0 0.9
On Probation -26.8 -12.0 -6.4
On Parole -56.7 -34.8 -9.6

Cases open on March 31, 2014, that involved probation imposed by district and magistrate judges decreased 6 percent from the previous year’s total to 20,145.

Persons on parole, special parole, military parole, and mandatory release on the last day of the reporting period declined 10 percent to 1,387.

The number of persons received for post-conviction supervision was 63,033, an increase of less than 1 percent from the previous year.

Closings of post-conviction supervision cases (excluding transfers and deaths) grew 2 percent to 55,495 (up 961 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 2014, probation officers wrote 72,716 presentence reports, a 3 percent decrease. Ninety-seven 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 tables.

Pretrial Services

The number of cases opened in the pretrial services system equaled 105,700, a decrease of less than 1 percent from 2013.

  • A total of 705 pretrial diversion cases were activated, a decline of 15 percent from the previous year.
  • Defendants received for pretrial services supervision fell 5 percent to 27,014.
  • Defendants received for pretrial diversion supervision dropped 19 percent to 1,006.

A total of 106,856 pretrial services cases were closed, a 1 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 55,265 defendants (down 4 percent) and prepared 102,174 pretrial services reports (down 1 percent) (not all defendants are interviewed–defendants may decline to be interviewed, and sometimes interviews are not possible–but for each defendant, a pretrial services report is usually written).
Pretrial Services Filings Percent Change Over Time
  Since 2005 Since 2010 Since 2013
Total Cases Activated 7.4 -1.6 -0.9
Pretrial Services Cases Activated 8.8 -1.4 -0.8
Reports 9.4 -1.6 -1.2
Pretrial Diversion Cases Activated -63.9 -26.6 -14.8
Released on Supervision -21.3 -8.8 -5.4
Pretrial Supervision -19.6 -8.3 -4.8
Diversion Supervision -49.6 -19.4 -18.6

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 5 percent to 29,569.

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