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Federal Judicial Caseload Statistics 2019

In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 604(a)(2), each year the Administrative Office of the United States Courts is required to provide a report of statistical information on the caseload of the federal courts for the 12-month period ending March 31. 

This report presents data on the work of the appellate, district, and bankruptcy courts and on the probation and pretrial services systems. The following is a summary of key findings provided for the year ending March 31, 2019.

  • In the U.S. courts of appeals, filings decreased 3 percent.
  • The bankruptcy appellate panels reported that filings fell 1 percent.
  • Filings in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit dropped 9 percent.
  • In the U.S. district courts, civil case filings increased 3 percent, and criminal defendant filings rose 11 percent.
  • The U.S. bankruptcy courts received 1 percent fewer petitions.
  • The number of persons under supervision by the federal probation system on March 31, 2019, was 3 percent lower than the total reported one year earlier.
  • Pretrial services cases activated in the past 12 months increased 13 percent.

U.S. Courts of Appeals

Filings in the 12 regional courts of appeals fell 3 percent to 47,977 (down 1,386 appeals) in 2019. Most of this decrease stemmed from fewer filings of U.S. and private prisoner petitions, original proceedings and miscellaneous applications, and bankruptcy appeals. Filings of criminal appeals and other private civil appeals remained relatively stable.

Civil appeals declined by 1,158 cases to 26,768.

  • U.S. prisoner petitions dropped 16 percent.
  • Private prisoner petitions went down 3 percent.
  • Other U.S. civil appeals fell 1 percent.
  • Other private civil appeals rose less than 1 percent.

Criminal appeals held steady, increasing less than 1 percent to 9,697.

  • Filings related to firearms and explosives rose 5 percent.
  • General offense cases rose 33 percent.
  • Immigration offense cases rose 6 percent.
  • Regulatory offense cases decreased 23 percent.

Appeals of administrative agency decisions fell 1 percent to 5,850, mostly due to reductions in appeals of decisions by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA).

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

Original proceedings and miscellaneous applications decreased 2 percent to 5,010.

  • Sixty-three percent of original proceedings and miscellaneous applications involved second or successive motions for writs of habeas corpus, and 28 percent involved writs of mandamus, writs of prohibition, or other extraordinary writs.
  • Of the 413 miscellaneous applications reported, motions for class action certification accounted for 44 percent of the total.

Bankruptcy appeals declined 10 percent to 652.

Appeals Court Filings
Percent Change Over Time
  Since 2010 Since 2015 Since 2018
Total Filings -15.5 -11.6 -2.8
Criminal Appeals -25.8 -9.0 0.3
Civil Appeals -14.2 -11.4 -4.1
     U.S. Prisoner Petitions -13.4 -9.1 -16.4
     Other U.S. Civil -14.5 -8.8 -0.6
     Private Prisoner Petitions -24.4 -14.1 -3.3
     Other Private Civil -5.1 -10.8 0.1
Bankruptcy Appeals -11.3 -23.6 -10.4
Administrative Agency Appeals -27.0 -18.0 -1.0
Original Proceedings and Miscellaneous Applications1 32.4 -6.8 -2.3
1 Beginning in March 2014, data include miscellaneous cases not included previously. 

Terminations of appeals dropped 6 percent to 48,515. Pending appeals fell 1 percent to 37,790.

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

Bankruptcy Appellate Panels

The Bankruptcy Appellate Panels (BAPs) reported that total filings decreased 1 percent to 590 (down 5 appeals). BAPs are units of the federal courts of appeals, and each BAP must be established by a federal judicial circuit council. Five federal judicial circuits—the First, Sixth, Eighth, Ninth, and Tenth Circuits—have BAPs.

This year, BAP filings fell in two circuits and increased in the other three circuits. Filings dropped by 43 appeals (down 11 percent) in the Ninth Circuit and by 2 appeals (down 6 percent) in the Eighth Circuit. Filings grew by 19 appeals (up 25 percent) in the Tenth Circuit, by 11 appeals (up 18 percent) in the First Circuit, and by 10 appeals (up 28 percent) in the Sixth Circuit.

For data on activity of the BAPs, see Tables BAP-1 and BAP-2.

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit

Filings in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit fell 9 percent to 1,478.

  • Filings of appeals from U.S. district courts had the largest numeric decrease, a reduction of 126 appeals to 370 (down 25 percent).
  • Filings involving the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office rose by 101 appeals to 643 (up 19 percent).
Federal Circuit Filings
Percent Change Over Time
  Since 2010 Since 2015 Since 2018
Total Filings 12 -9.4 -8.6
U.S. District Court Appeals -16.7 -37.5 -25.4
U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Appeals 630.7 102.8 18.6
U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board Appeals -64.7 -58.4 -16.4

Terminations of appeals declined less than 1 percent to 1,625 (down 5 appeals). The pending caseload fell 10 percent to 1,392 (down 147 appeals).

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

U.S. District Courts

Combined filings in the U.S. district courts for civil cases and criminal defendants increased by 18,200 (up 5 percent) to 376,762. Terminations grew by 26,108 (up 7 percent) to 389,666. As terminations exceeded filings, the total for pending civil cases and criminal defendants declined by 13,694 (down 3 percent) to 473,589.

Civil Filings

Civil case filings in the U.S. courts increased 3 percent (up 9,279 cases) to 286,289.

Federal question filings rose 2 percent to 150,936.

  • Prisoner petitions grew 1 percent (up 599 petitions) as petitions for writs of mandamus and other writs rose 33 percent (up 193 petitions) and petitions related to civil rights increased 5 percent (up 822 petitions).
  • Cases dealing with personal injury and product liability went up 36 percent (up 212 cases).
  • Civil rights filings grew 7 percent (up 2,502 cases) as cases involving claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act (Other) rose 28 percent (up 2,474 cases) and cases addressing housing and accommodations climbed 20 percent (up 163 cases).
  • Intellectual property right filings grew 20 percent (up 2,171 cases) as cases related to copyright jumped 57 percent (up 2,294), mainly as a result of copyright infringement claims raised by Strike 3 Holdings, LLC.

Filings with the United States as defendant decreased 5 percent to 36,782.

  • Prisoner petition filings declined 4 percent (down 498 petitions) to 11,127 as cases addressing prison conditions dropped 40 percent (down 176 cases) to 266.
  • Contract filings fell 40 percent (down 176 cases to 269) as cases involving insurance decreased 83 percent (down 192 cases). Insurance case filings had soared 673 percent the previous year as the Middle District of Louisiana received an influx of cases in response to flooding.
  • Social Security case filings went down 9 percent (down 1,711 cases) to 17,579 as cases dealing with supplemental security income decreased 15 percent (down 1,265 cases) to 7,427.
  • Tax suits declined 21 percent (down 80 cases) to 304.
  • Civil filings related to immigration grew 14 percent (up 226 cases) to 1,869.
Civil Case Filings
Percent Change Over Time
  Since 2010 Since 2015 Since 2018
Total Filings 1.4 1.7 3.4
Federal Question Cases 10.6 0.5 1.9
Diversity of Citizenship Cases -8.2 7.3 10.4
U.S. Defendant Cases 5.8 -1.5 -5.2
U.S. Plaintiff Cases -48.7 -31.0 -8.8

Filings with the United States as plaintiff dropped 9 percent to 4,363.

  • Contract actions declined 24 percent (down 162 cases).
  • Cases addressing recovery of overpayments and enforcement of judgments decreased 24 percent (down 129 cases).

Filings of cases involving diversity of citizenship (i.e., disputes between citizens of different states and/or between U.S. citizens and citizens of foreign nations) rose 10 percent to 94,206.

  • Personal injury/product liability filings increased 7 percent (up 3,025 cases) as health care/pharmaceutical cases grew 6 percent (up 2,071 cases), largely because of the Bard IVC Filters multidistrict litigation filed in the District of Arizona that alleged injuries arising from blood clot filters.
  • Filings under RICO (the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act) jumped 119 percent (up 150 cases) as more consumers relied on this statute to allege corporate fraud.

Civil case terminations increased 7 percent to 307,368, mainly due to the closure of large numbers of multidistrict litigation cases.

  • The Southern District of West Virginia terminated 49,936 cases. Most were part of multidistrict litigation related to pelvic repair products.
  • The Southern District of Ohio terminated 5,817 cases. Most were part of multidistrict litigation alleging personal injuries or wrongful deaths arising from drinking water contaminated with C-8, a chemical also known as perfluorooctanoic  acid (PFOA) or ammonium perfluorooctanoate (APFO).
  • The District of New Jersey terminated 4,404 cases. Most were part of multidistrict litigation addressing proton-pump inhibitor products.

Pending civil cases rose 7 percent to 363,474.

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

Criminal Filings

Criminal defendant filings (including transfers) in the U.S district courts grew 11 percent (up 8,920 defendants) to 90,473.

Filings for defendants charged with immigration offenses, which constituted 33 percent of all criminal defendant filings, rose 30 percent to 30,223 (this total does not include defendants charged with immigration crimes in petty offense cases disposed of by magistrate judges).

  • Seventy-eight percent of immigration defendant filings occurred in the five southwestern border districts. Immigration defendant filings within the southwestern border districts increased 32 percent.
  • Filings climbed 63 percent in the Western District of Texas (after growing 21 percent last year), rose 44 percent in the District of Arizona (after remaining relatively stable last year), increased 31 percent in the Southern District of Texas (after decreasing 14 percent last year), and grew 14 percent in the District of New Mexico (after decreasing 13 percent last year).
  • Filings declined 5 percent in the Southern District of California (after increasing 96 percent last year).

Filings involving drug offenses, which accounted for 28 percent of total defendant filings, increased 1 percent to 25,113.

  • Defendants charged with crimes involving drugs other than marijuana rose 6 percent to 22,305.
  • Defendants charged with marijuana offenses dropped 26 percent to 2,808.

Defendant filings for firearms and explosives crimes climbed 17 percent to 12,521, equaling 14 percent of total defendant filings. Filings for defendants accused of sex offenses increased 2 percent to 3,246. Defendants charged with crimes in the category of general offenses (e.g., public-order crimes such as money laundering) decreased 10 percent to 1,698. Traffic offense filings fell 11 percent 2,015 (this total does not include defendants charged with traffic crimes in petty offense cases disposed of by magistrate judges).

Filings associated with property offenses, which amounted to 11 percent of all defendant filings, grew 3 percent to 10,174..

Defendants charged with justice system offenses (i.e., crimes related to judicial proceedings, such as obstruction of justice or failure to appear) went up 1 percent to 848.

Criminal Defendant Filings (Excluding Transfers)
Percent Change Over Time
  Since 2010 Since 2015 Since 2018
Total Defendant Filings -8.3 13.0 10.8
Immigration Offense Defendants 7.8 42.8 29.8
Drug Crime Defendants -15.8 1.0 0.6
Firearms and Explosives Crime Defendants 46.1 66.8 16.7
Sex Offense Defendants 12.9 -1.8 2.5
Property Crime Defendants -38.9 -21.1 2.8

Terminations for criminal defendants increased 7 percent to 82,298. The number for defendants pending rose 7 percent to 110,115.

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 declined 1 percent to 772,646 (down 7,182 petitions). Of the 90 bankruptcy courts, 56 reported lower filings. 

  • The largest percentage decrease was an 11 percent reduction in the Western District of Washington (WA-W) to 9,401 filings in March 2019. Filings in WA-W peaked in March 2011 and have since declined annually.
  • The highest percentage increase was a rise of 16 percent in the Middle District of Louisiana.

Fewer petitions were filed under chapters 7, 9, 11, and 13 of the bankruptcy code. More petitions were filed under chapters 12 and 15.

  • Chapter 7 filings dropped 1 percent to 474,046.
  • Chapter 9 filings decreased 57 percent to 3.
  • Chapter 11 filings fell 9 percent to 7,023.
  • Chapter 13 filings rose less than 1 percent to 290,963.
  • Chapter 12 filings grew 3 percent to 513.
  • Chapter 15 filings increased 11 percent to 98.

Petitions filed by debtors with predominantly business debts declined 4 percent to 22,157. Debtors with nonbusiness (i.e., largely consumer) debts filed 750,489 petitions, 1 percent fewer than the previous year. Nonbusiness cases accounted for 97 percent of all petitions.

Bankruptcy Court Filings
Percent Change Over Time
  Since 2010 Since 2015 Since 2018

Total Filings

-49.6 -15.2 -1.0
Chapter 7 -57.0 -20.6 -1.4
Chapter 11 -54.0 -0.4 -9.2
Chapter 13 -30.0 -5.1 0.1

Terminations of bankruptcy cases fell 5 percent to 795,926. The number of cases pending on March 31 decreased 2 percent from the previous year’s total to 1,013,835.

Bankruptcy filings have fluctuated since the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act (BAPCPA) took effect in October 2005. The courts received 695,575 petitions in the 12 months ending March 31, 2007. Thereafter, filings increased every year until 2011, when 1,571,183 petitions were filed. In each of the last eight years, filings have declined. Total filings for 2019 are 51 percent below the post-BAPCPA peak reached in 2011, but 11 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 more commonly arise in cases filed under chapter 11. Because of time limits imposed by Section 546 of the bankruptcy code, the number of adversary proceedings filed usually is related to the number of chapter 11 cases filed two years earlier.

During the 12-month period ending March 31, 2019, the number of adversary proceedings filed decreased 10 percent to 23,623. Fifty-three of the 90 bankruptcy courts experienced declines in filings of adversary proceedings during this reporting period. The reductions likely resulted from the overall drop in bankruptcy filings.

The number of adversary proceedings terminated fell 8 percent to 25,135. The number of pending adversary proceedings declined 5 percent from the previous year to 23,138.

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, 2019, fell 3 percent from the prior year to 128,120 (down 4,142 persons). Persons serving terms of supervised release on that date following release from a correctional institution decreased 3 percent to 111,943.

  • Eighty-seven percent of persons under post-conviction supervision on March 31, 2019, were serving terms of supervised release.
  • Twelve percent of persons under post-conviction supervision were under supervision following the imposition of sentences of probation, and 1 percent were on parole.

Cases remaining open on March 31, 2019, that involved probation imposed by district and magistrate judges dropped 7 percent from the previous year’s total to 15,179.

Persons on parole, special parole, military parole, and mandatory release on the last day of the reporting period also declined 7 percent to 893.

The number of persons received for post-conviction supervision was 59,964, an increase of less than 1 percent from the previous year.

Persons Under Post-Conviction Supervision
Percent Change Over Time
  Since 2010 Since 2015 Since 2018
Total Under Supervision 1.6 -4.0 -3.1
Serving Terms of Supervised Release 10.9 -0.6 -2.6
On Probation -33.7 -21.4 -6.6
On Parole -58.0 -33.0 -6.6

Closings of post-conviction supervision cases (excluding transfers and deaths) grew 1 percent to 55,534 (up 549 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 2019, probation officers wrote 70,318 presentence reports, an increase of 10 percent from the previous year.
  • Ninety-three 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 104,124, an increase of 13 percent from 2018.

  • A total of 455 pretrial diversion cases were activated, up 2 percent from the previous year.

The number of defendants received for supervision in the pretrial services system was 24,851, 8 percent above the number received in 2018.

  • Defendants received for pretrial services supervision rose 8 percent to 24,187.
  • Defendants received for pretrial diversion supervision remained relatively stable at 664, a 1 percent decrease from the previous year.
Pretrial Services Filings
Percent Change Over Time
  Since 2010 Since 2015 Since 2018
Total Cases Activated -3.3 8 12.7
Pretrial Services Cases Activated -2.8 8.4 12.7
Pretrial Diversion Cases Activated -52.6 -42.1 2.5
Released on Supervision -16.1 0.4 8
Pretrial Supervision -14.7 2.2 8.3
Diversion Supervision -46.8 -38.9 -0.6

A total of 93,899 pretrial services cases were closed, an increase of 9 percent.

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 54,204 defendants (up 8 percent) and prepared 99,545 pretrial services reports (up 12 percent).

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 grew 7 percent to 27, 335.

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