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Judicial Business 2019

This report presents statistics on the work of the federal Judiciary for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2019, 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 48,486. Total filings in the U.S. district courts increased 6 percent to 390,555 as civil case filings rose 5 percent to 297,877 and criminal defendant filings grew 6 percent to 92,678. Petitions filed in the U.S. bankruptcy courts went up less than 1 percent to 776,674. The number of persons under post-conviction supervision went down less than 1 percent to 128,904. Cases opened in the pretrial services system (excluding pretrial diversion cases) climbed 9 percent to 108,163.

Caseload Highlights

U.S. Courts of Appeals

  • Filings in the regional courts of appeals declined 2 percent to 48,486 in 2019.
  • Filings by pro se litigants, which accounted for 49 percent of new cases, decreased 4 percent.
  • Civil appeals dropped 3 percent.
  • Criminal appeals rose 2 percent.

U.S. District Courts

  • Combined filings in the district courts for civil cases and criminal defendants grew 6 percent to 390,555.

Civil Filings

  • Civil case filings increased 5 percent to 297,877.
  • Cases involving diversity of citizenship rose 18 percent to 104,803.
  • Federal question cases dropped less than 1 percent to 151,037.
  • Filings with the United States as defendant declined less than 1 percent.
  • Filings with the United States as plaintiff decreased 14 percent.

Criminal Filings

  • Filings for criminal defendants (including those transferred from other districts) grew 6 percent to 92,678.
  • Defendants prosecuted for immigration violations climbed 13 percent nationwide to 31,495 as the southwestern border districts, which received 81 percent of immigration defendants, had a combined increase in filings of 16 percent.
  • Drug crime defendants rose 5 percent to 26,021.
  • Defendants accused of crimes involving firearms and explosives went up 8 percent to 12,642.

U.S. Bankruptcy Courts

  • Bankruptcy petition filings grew less than 1 percent to 776,674.
  • Nonbusiness (i.e., largely consumer) petitions went up less than 1 percent, and business petitions increased 4 percent.
  • Filings under chapter 7 rose 1 percent, as did filings under chapter 11. Filings under chapter 13 declined 1 percent.
  • More petitions were filed in 44 of the 90 bankruptcy courts.

Federal Probation and Pretrial Services System

  • The total of 128,904 persons under post-conviction supervision on September 30, 2019, was less than 1 percent lower than the total one year earlier.
  • The number of persons serving terms of supervised release on that date after leaving correctional institutions remained stable, rising by 9 to 113,198, and amounted to 88 percent of all persons under supervision.
  • Cases opened in the pretrial services system, including pretrial diversion cases, increased 9 percent to 108,606.