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Judicial Business 2016

This report presents statistics on the work of the Federal Judiciary for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2016, 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, filings in the U.S. courts of appeals climbed 15 percent to 60,357. Total filings in the U.S. district courts rose 3 percent to 369,208 as civil case filings increased 5 percent to 291,851, although filings for criminal defendants decreased 3 percent to 77,357. Petitions filed in the U.S. bankruptcy courts dropped 6 percent to 805,580. The number of persons under post-conviction supervision remained relatively stable, growing 1 percent to 137,410. Cases opened in the pretrial services system declined 3 percent to 91,709.

Caseload Highlights

U.S. Courts of Appeals

  • In the regional courts of appeals, filings grew 15 percent to 60,357.
  • Appeals involving pro se litigants, which constituted 52 percent of filings, rose 18 percent.
  • Criminal appeals remained stable, increasing 1 percent.
  • Civil appeals decreased 2 percent.
  • Appeals of administrative agency decisions declined 9 percent.

U.S. District Courts

  • Combined filings for civil cases and criminal defendants in the district courts rose 3 percent to 369,208.

Civil Filings

  • Civil case filings increased 5 percent to 291,851.
  • Filings with the United States as defendant climbed 55 percent.
  • Filings with the United States as plaintiff went down 19 percent.
  • Federal question cases held steady, falling less than 1 percent.
  • Cases involving diversity of citizenship dropped 5 percent.

Criminal Filings

  • Filings for criminal defendants (including those transferred from other districts) fell 3 percent to 77,357.
  • Defendants charged with property offenses (including fraud) declined 13 percent.
  • Drug crime defendants dropped 3 percent.
  • Defendants prosecuted for immigration violations decreased less than 1 percent nationwide, although they rose 2 percent in the southwestern border districts, which received 81 percent of total immigration defendant filings.

U.S. Bankruptcy Courts

  • Bankruptcy petition filings fell 6 percent to 805,580.
  • Consumer (i.e., largely nonbusiness) petitions dropped 6 percent, and business petitions fell 2 percent.
  • Filings decreased 9 percent under chapter 7 and fell 1 percent under chapter 13.
  • Filings rose 6 percent under chapter 11.
  • Filings declined in 71 of the 90 bankruptcy courts.

Federal Probation and Pretrial Services System

  • The total of 137,410 persons under post-conviction supervision on September 30, 2016, was 1 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 118,242 and accounted for 86 percent of all persons under supervision.
  • Cases opened in the pretrial services system this year, including pretrial diversion cases, decreased 3 percent to 91,709.