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Judicial Business 2015

This report presents statistics on the work of the Federal Judiciary for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2015, 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.

In 2015, filings in the U.S. courts of appeals decreased 4 percent to 52,698. Total filings in the U.S. district courts fell 5 percent to 359,105 as civil case filings declined 6 percent to 279,036, while filings for criminal defendants held relatively steady, dropping 1 percent to 80,069. Petitions filed in the U.S. bankruptcy courts decreased 11 percent to 860,182. The number of persons under post-conviction supervision rose 2 percent to 135,468. Cases opened in the pretrial services system declined 5 percent to 95,013.

Caseload Highlights

U.S. Courts of Appeals

  • In the regional courts of appeals, filings dropped 4 percent to 52,698.
  • Appeals involving pro se litigants, which amounted to 51 percent of filings, fell 4 percent.
  • Civil appeals decreased 7 percent.
  • Criminal appeals increased 3 percent.
  • Appeals of administrative agency decisions grew 3 percent

U.S. District Courts

  • Combined filings for civil cases and criminal defendants in the district courts dropped 5 percent to 359,105.

Civil Filings

  • Civil case filings fell 6 percent to 279,036.
  • Cases involving diversity of citizenship declined 14 percent.
  • Federal question cases rose 1 percent.
  • Filings with the United States as defendant dropped 7 percent.
  • Filings with the United States as plaintiff decreased 10 percent.

Criminal Filings

  • Filings for criminal defendants (including those transferred from other districts) remained relatively stable, dropping 1 percent to 80,069.
  • Defendants prosecuted for immigration violations fell 5 percent nationwide and 3 percent in the southwestern border districts, which accounted for 79 percent of total immigration defendant filings.
  • Defendants charged with property offenses (including fraud) declined 6 percent.
  • Drug crime defendants grew 2 percent and accounted for 32 percent of criminal filings.

U.S. Bankruptcy Courts

  • Bankruptcy petition filings dropped 11 percent to 860,182.
  • Consumer (i.e., largely nonbusiness) petitions decreased 11 percent, and business petitions declined 12 percent.
  • Filings fell 14 percent under chapter 7, 8 percent under chapter 11, and 3 percent under chapter 13.
  • Fewer petitions were filed in 89 of the 90 bankruptcy courts.

Federal Probation and Pretrial Services System

  • The total of 135,468 persons under post-conviction supervision on September 30, 2015, was 2 percent greater than the total one year earlier.
  • Persons serving terms of supervised release on that date after leaving correctional institutions increased 3 percent to 114,961 and accounted for 85 percent of all persons under supervision.
  • Cases opened in the pretrial services system this year, including pretrial diversion cases, declined 5 percent to 95,013.