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Judicial Business 2012

This report presents statistics on the work of the Federal Judiciary for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2012, comparing data for this year to data for prior years and, when possible, explaining increases or decreases in caseloads.

Separate sections of the report address the appellate, district, and bankruptcy courts; the probation and pretrial services system; and other components of the Federal Judiciary. Caseload totals for the major programs of the Federal Judiciary appear in the table of judicial caseload indicators.

This year, growth in filings occurred in some areas of the Federal Judiciary, but other areas experienced reductions. The regional U.S. courts of appeals reported that filings rose 4 percent to 57,501. In the U.S. district courts, total filings fell 5 percent to 372,563 as civil case filings decreased 4 percent to 278,442 and criminal defendant filings declined 9 percent to 94,121. Petitions filed in the U.S. bankruptcy courts dropped 14 percent to 1,261,140. The number of persons under post-conviction supervision increased 2 percent to 132,340, but cases opened in the pretrial services system fell 4 percent to 109,242.

Caseload Highlights

U.S. Courts of Appeals

  • In the regional courts of appeals, filings rose 4 percent to 57,501.
  • Appeals involving pro se litigants, which accounted for 51 percent of filings, went up 7 percent.
  • Criminal appeals grew 12 percent, appeals of administrative agency decisions climbed 11 percent, and bankruptcy appeals rose 19 percent.
  • Original proceedings increased 8 percent.
  • Civil appeals declined 1 percent.

U.S. District Courts

  • Combined filings of civil cases and criminal defendants in the district courts decreased 5 percent to 372,563.

Civil Filings

  • Civil case filings fell 4 percent to 278,442.
  • Cases involving diversity of citizenship declined 15 percent.
  • Filings with the United States as plaintiff dropped 18 percent.
  • Filings with the United States as defendant rose 8 percent.
  • Federal question cases increased 3 percent.

Criminal Filings

  • Filings for criminal defendants (including defendants transferred from other districts), which had set a record high in 2011, fell 9 percent this year to 94,121.
  • Reductions occurred in the numbers of defendants charged with drug crimes, immigration violations, property offenses, traffic crimes, general offenses, sex crimes, justice system violations, and violent offenses.
  • Increases occurred in the numbers of defendants accused of firearms crimes and regulatory offenses.

U.S. Bankruptcy Courts

  • Bankruptcy petition filings dropped 14 percent to 1,261,140.
  • Fewer petitions were filed in 89 of the 90 bankruptcy courts.
  • Nonbusiness petitions declined 14 percent, and business petitions decreased 16 percent.
  • Filings fell 16 percent under chapter 7, 12 percent under chapter 11, and 10 percent under chapter 13.

Federal Probation and Pretrial Services System

  • The number of persons under post-conviction supervision on September 30, 2012, was 132,340, a rise of 2 percent over the total one year earlier.
  • Persons serving terms of supervised release upon leaving correctional institutions grew 3 percent to 108,372 and amounted to 82 percent of all persons under supervision.
  • Cases opened in the pretrial services system this year, including pretrial diversion cases, decreased 4 percent to 109,242.