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Judicial Business 2017

This report presents statistics on the work of the federal Judiciary for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2017, 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 declined 16 percent to 50,506. Total filings in the U.S. district courts decreased 7 percent to 344,787 as civil case filings dropped 8 percent to 267,769, although filings for criminal defendants remained relatively stable at 77,018. Petitions filed in the U.S. bankruptcy courts fell 2 percent to 790,830. The number of persons under post-conviction supervision went down 2 percent to 134,731. Cases opened in the pretrial services system declined 3 percent to 88,750.

Caseload Highlights

U.S. Courts of Appeals

  • Filings in the regional courts of appeals, which rose 15 percent the previous year, dropped 16 percent to 50,506 in 2017.
  • Filings by pro se litigants, which accounted for 50 percent of new cases, went down 20 percent.
  • Civil appeals grew 1 percent.
  • Criminal appeals fell 14 percent.

U.S. District Courts

  • Combined filings in the district courts for civil cases and criminal defendants declined 7 percent to 344,787.

Civil Filings

  • Civil case filings fell 8 percent to 267,769.
  • Filings with the United States as defendant decreased 29 percent.
  • Filings with the United States as plaintiff increased 5 percent.
  • Cases involving diversity of citizenship declined 7 percent.
  • Federal question cases dropped 2 percent.

Criminal Filings

  • Filings for criminal defendants (including those transferred from other districts) remained stable, decreasing less than 1 percent to 77,018.
  • Defendants charged with property offenses fell 6 percent.
  • Drug crime defendants held steady, dropping 1 percent.
  • Defendants prosecuted for immigration violations declined 2 percent nationwide as the five southwestern border districts, which received 77 percent of immigration crime defendants, had a combined reduction in filings of 7 percent.

U.S. Bankruptcy Courts

  • Bankruptcy petition filings dropped 2 percent to 790,830.
  • Consumer (i.e., largely nonbusiness) petitions fell 2 percent, and business petitions decreased 6 percent.
  • Filings under chapter 7 declined 2 percent, filings under chapter 13 declined 1 percent, and filings under chapter 11 declined 5 percent.
  • Fewer petitions were filed in 56 of the 90 bankruptcy courts.

Federal Probation and Pretrial Services System

  • The total of 134,731 persons under post-conviction supervision on September 30, 2017, was 2 percent lower than the total one year earlier.
  • Persons serving terms of supervised release on that date after leaving correctional institutions fell 1 percent to 116,708 and amounted to 87 percent of all persons under supervision.
  • Cases opened in the pretrial services system, including pretrial diversion cases, dropped 3 percent to 88,750.