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Judicial Business 2018

This report presents statistics on the work of the federal Judiciary for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2018, comparing data for this year with 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 dropped 2 percent to 49,276. Total filings in the U.S. district courts increased 7 percent to 370,085 as civil case filings rose 6 percent to 282,936 and filings for criminal defendants grew 13 percent to 87,149. Petitions filed in the U.S. bankruptcy courts fell 2 percent to 773,375. The number of persons under post-conviction supervision went down 4 percent to 129,706. Cases opened in the pretrial services system climbed 13 percent to 99,931.

Caseload Highlights

U.S. Courts of Appeals

  • Filings in the regional courts of appeals declined 2 percent to 49,276 in 2018.
  • Filings by pro se litigants, which accounted for 50 percent of new cases, fell 3 percent.
  • Civil appeals dropped 2 percent.
  • Criminal appeals decreased 1 percent.

U.S. District Courts

  • Combined filings in the district courts for civil cases and criminal defendants rose 7 percent to 370,085.

Civil Filings

  • Civil case filings increased 6 percent to 282,936.
  • Federal question cases grew 3 percent to 151,646.
  • Cases involving diversity of citizenship rose 17 percent to 88,547.
  • Filings with the United States as defendant declined 3 percent.
  • Filings with the United States as plaintiff decreased 6 percent.

Criminal Filings

  • Filings for criminal defendants (including those transferred from other districts) went up 13 percent to 87,149.
  • Defendants prosecuted for immigration violations grew 37 percent nationwide to 27,916 as the five southwestern border districts, which received 78 percent of immigration defendants, had a combined increase in filings of 39 percent.
  • Drug crime defendants rose 2 percent to 24,740.
  • Defendants accused of crimes involving firearms and explosives grew 21 percent to 11,692.

U.S. Bankruptcy Courts

  • Bankruptcy petition filings dropped 2 percent to 773,375.
  • Nonbusiness (i.e., largely consumer) petitions fell 2 percent, and business petitions decreased 4 percent.
  • Filings under chapter 7 declined 2 percent, filings under chapter 13 declined 3 percent, and filings under chapter 11 declined less than 1 percent.
  • Fewer petitions were filed in 60 of the 90 bankruptcy courts.

Federal Probation and Pretrial Services System

  • The total of 129,706 persons under post-conviction supervision on September 30, 2018, was 4 percent lower than the total one year earlier.
  • Persons serving terms of supervised release on that date after leaving correctional institutions fell 3 percent to 113,189 and amounted to 87 percent of all persons under supervision.
  • Cases opened in the pretrial services system, including pretrial diversion cases, increased 13 percent to 99,931.