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U.S. Courts Of Appeals - Judicial Business 2012

Filings in the 12 regional courts of appeals rose 4 percent to 57,501. Increases occurred in filings of all types except civil appeals.

Seventy-seven percent of filings were appeals of decisions by the district courts, and 15 percent were appeals of decisions by administrative agencies. Seven percent were original proceedings, and 1 percent were appeals of bankruptcy case decisions. The number of appeals terminated remained stable, going up by 213 to 57,570. Pending appeals fell by 69 to 43,545. The median time from filing a notice of appeal or docket date to final disposition decreased from 11 months to 9.8 months

Table 1: U.S. Courts of Appeals | Appeals Filed, Terminated, and Pending Fiscal Years 2008 - 2012
Year Authorized
Filled Number Filled Cases
per Panel
Cases per
2008 1661     61,104 1,104 59,096 1,068 53,332
2009 167 57,740 1,037 60,508 1,087 49,885
2010 167 55,992 1,006 59,526 1,069 45,864
2011 167 55,126 990 57,357 1,030 43,6142
2012 167 57,501 1,033 57,570 1,034 43,545
Percent Change
2011 - 2012
4.3 0.4 -0.2
Note: This table excludes data for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.
1 In 2008, the total number of authorized judgeships temporarily was reduced by one by the Court Security Improvement Act of 2007.
2 Revised.

Appeals arising from district courts climbed 3 percent to 44,034. Criminal appeals grew 12 percent to 13,675, primarily because appeals related to non-marijuana drugs increased 42 percent as prisoners sentenced for crack cocaine offenses became eligible to seek reductions of their sentences under a 2011 federal sentencing guidelines amendment. Appeals involving property crimes, drug offenses, sex offenses, justice systems offenses (i.e., crimes related to judicial proceedings, such as obstruction of justice and failure to appear), and traffic offenses rose. Appeals involving violent crimes, firearms and explosives offenses, immigration offenses, general offenses (i.e., public-order crimes, such as prostitution), and regulatory offenses declined. Civil appeals fell 1 percent to 30,359. Reductions occurred in appeals in civil cases in which the United States was a party and in appeals in private cases, but appeals based on diversity of citizenship (i.e., cases between citizens of different states) increased.

Administrative agency appeals increased 11 percent to 8,391. Appeals challenging decisions by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) climbed 11 percent to 7,035; of these, 50 percent were filed in the Ninth Circuit and 20 percent in the Second Circuit.

Original proceedings commenced in the courts of appeals grew 8 percent to 4,265. Bankruptcy appeals jumped 19 percent to 811.

Prisoner petitions, which equaled 49 percent of all civil appeals, fell 4 percent to 15,020. Appeals involving pro se litigants rose 7 percent to 29,075, primarily because of appeals related to non-marijuana drugs. Seventy-seven percent involved decisions of the district courts, 14 percent were original proceedings, 9 percent were administrative agency appeals, and 1 percent were bankruptcy appeals. Pro se litigants accounted for 51 percent of appeals filed during 2012, and 47 percent of all pro se appeals (13,582) were filed by prisoners. Ninety percent of all prisoner petitions and 93 percent of all original proceedings were filed by pro se litigants.

Since 2008, appeals court filings have declined 6 percent (down by 3,603 appeals). The largest reduction during that period has been a 28 percent decrease in administrative agency appeals (down by 3,192 appeals), which stems from a 32 percent drop in filings involving the BIA (down by 3,245 appeals). Eight more criminal appeals were filed in 2012 than in 2008, but filings spiked periodically during the interim years as prisoners sought reductions of their sentences under several amendments of the Fair Sentencing Act.

For data on the activity of the appeals courts, see Tables 1 and 2 and the B series of tables.

Table 2 U.S. Courts of Appeals | Sources of Appeals Fiscal Years 2011 and 2012
Source 2011 2012 Percent Change
Total 55,126 57,501 4.3
U.S. District Courts      
Criminal 12,198 13,675 12.1
Civil—Total 30,733 30,359 -1.2
Prisoner Petitions 15,678 15,020 -4.2
U.S. Civil 2,771 2,655 -4.2
Private Civil 12,284 12,684 3.3
Other Appeals      
Bankruptcy 683 811 18.7
Administrative Agency 7,550 8,391 11.1
Original Proceedings 3,962 4,265 7.6
Note: This table excludes data for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

Bankruptcy Appellate Panels

Five federal judicial circuits have bankruptcy appellate panels (BAPs). In 2012, filings declined in four of those circuits, and overall BAP filings decreased 3 percent to 1,051 (down by 34 appeals). BAP filings tend to lag bankruptcy filings by about two years, so the reduction in BAP filings in 2012 reflected the drop in petitions filed after 2010 in the bankruptcy courts.

Only the Ninth Circuit had more filings, an increase of 2 percent (up by 14 appeals). The Sixth Circuit had the largest decline in filings, a decrease of 23 percent (down by 19 appeals). Filings fell 17 percent in the Eighth Circuit (down by 15 appeals), 8 percent in the First Circuit, (down by 8 appeals), and 5 percent in the Tenth Circuit (down by 6 appeals).

Since 2008, BAP filings have risen 47 percent (up by 335 appeals). At the start of that five-year period, BAP filings reflected the large drop in bankruptcy petitions associated with the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 (BAPCPA). Between 2008 and 2012, BAP filings in the Ninth Circuit have climbed 93 percent (up by 343 appeals). Filings have grown 16 percent in the Eighth Circuit (up by 10 appeals), 8 percent in the Tenth Circuit (up by 8 appeals), and 7 percent in the First Circuit (up by 6 appeals). Filings have declined 34 percent in the Sixth Circuit (down by 32 appeals).

For data on the activity of the BAPs, see Tables B-10 and B-11.

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit

The jurisdiction of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit is defined by subject matter rather than by geographical boundaries. The court is responsible for appeals involving customs and patents, rulings by the U.S. Court of Federal Claims and the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, and decisions by several federal administrative boards.

Filings in the Federal Circuit rose 2 percent to 1,381 (up by 32 appeals). Total filings per panel climbed from 337 to 345. Growth was spread across many types of appeals, with the greatest numeric increase occurring in appeals of decisions by the U.S. district courts, which rose by 49 appeals to 511.

Appeals of decisions by the U.S. Court of Federal Claims rose by 13 to 166 (up 8 percent), mainly because of an increase in appeals involving tax refunds. Appeals of decisions by the U.S. Court of International Trade climbed by 9 to 46 (up 24 percent), partly because of cases involving the distribution to American firms of funds raised from anti-dumping and countervailing duties under the “Byrd Amendment,” (i.e., the Continued Dumping and Subsidy Offset Act of 2000). Appeals of decisions by the International Trade Commission grew by 15 to 26 (up 136 percent), primarily because of an increase in patent infringement actions filed under 19 U.S.C. § 337.

The largest numeric decrease was a drop in appeals of decisions by the U.S. Court of Veterans Claims, which fell by 25 to 189 (down 12 percent).

Terminations of appeals increased 10 percent to 1,369. Because filings exceeded terminations, the number of appeals pending grew 1 percent to 1,024.

Over the past five years, appeals filings in the Federal Circuit have fallen 5 percent (down by 76 appeals). During that period, terminations of appeals have declined 22 percent (down by 376 appeals). The number of appeals pending at the end of the fiscal year was 8 percent higher (up by 77 appeals) in 2012 than in 2008.

For data on the activity of the Federal Circuit, see Table B-8.

Appeals Tables Revised