Chief Justice John Roberts recently released his 2011 Year End Report on the Federal Judiciary, detailing the activity of the federal court system. The Chief Justice provided the statistics for the federal court system, which are most interesting. The report says that in 2011, caseloads increased in the U.S. district courts and in the probation and pretrial services offices, but decreased in the U.S. appellate and bankruptcy courts. Total case filings in the district courts during 2011 grew 2 percent to 367,692. The number of persons under post-conviction supervision rose 2 percent to 129,780. Cases opened in the pretrial services system also went up 2 percent, reaching 113,875. In the U.S. courts of appeals, filings dropped 1.5 percent to 55,126. Filings in the U.S. bankruptcy courts, which had climbed 14 percent in 2010, declined 8 percent last year to just below 1.5 million petitions. The following comes from the report:
• The Supreme Court of the United States. The total number of cases filed in the U.S. Supreme Court decreased from 8,159 filings in the 2009 Term to 7,857 filings in the 2010 Term, a decrease of 3.7 percent. The number of cases filed in the Court’s in forma pauperis docket decreased from 6,576 filings in the 2009 Term to 6,299 filings in the 2010 Term a 4.2 percent decrease. The number of cases filed in the Court’s paid docket decreased from 1,583 filings in the 2009 Term to 1,558 filings in the 2010 Term, a 1.6 percent decrease. During the 2010 Term, 86 cases were argued before the court and 83 were disposed of in 75 signed opinions, compared to 82 cases argued and 77 disposed of in 73 signed opinions in the 2009 Term.
• The Federal Court of Appeals. Filings in the regional courts of appeals fell 1.5 percent to 55,126. Growth occurred in original proceedings and bankruptcy appeals. Appeals arising from the district courts decreased. Although civil appeals remained fairly stable, reductions occurred in many types of criminal appeals. Appeals of administrative agency decisions declined as a result of the continued drop in filings related to the Board of Immigration Appeals.
• The Federal District Courts. Civil filings in the U.S. district courts grew 2 percent to 289,252 cases. Fueling this growth was a 2 percent increase in federal question cases, which resulted mainly from cases addressing civil rights, consumer credit, and intellectual property rights. The federal question cases are actions under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States in which the United States is not a party in the case.
• Cases filed with the United States as a party. It was reported that cases involving the United States as a party climbed 9%. Those with the United States as Plaintiff increased in response to a surge in defaulted student loan cases. Cases with the United States as Defendant rose largely because of growth in Social Security cases.
• Criminal Case Filings. Although criminal case filings (including transfers) remained stable (up by 12 cases to 78,440), the number of criminal Defendants increased 3 percent to set a new record of 201,931. Growth in filings occurred for Defendants charged with drug crimes, general offenses, firearms and explosives offenses, sex offenses, and property offenses. Filings for Defendants charged with immigration offenses fell for the first time since 2006, decreasing 3 percent. The southwestern border districts accounted for 74 percent of the nation’s total immigration Defendant filings, up from 73 percent in 2010.
• The Bankruptcy Courts. Filings of bankruptcy petitions declined 8 percent to 1,467,221. This was the first reduction since 2007, when filings plunged after the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 took effect. Filings for 2011 were lower in 87 of the 90 bankruptcy courts. Nonbusiness petitions fell 8 percent, and business petitions dropped 14 percent. Bankruptcy petitions decreased 10 percent under chapter 7, 16 percent under chapter 11, and 4 percent under chapter 13.
• The Federal Probation and Pretrial Services System. The 129,780 persons under post-conviction supervision on September 30, 2011, represented an increase of 2 percent over the total from the previous year. The number of persons serving terms of supervised release after their departure from correctional institutions grew 2 percent to 105,037, and amounted to 81 percent of all persons under supervision. Cases opened in the pretrial services system in 2011, including pretrial diversion cases, rose 2 percent to 113,875.
Source: Report from Chief Justice Roberts
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