Although the federal judiciary began fiscal year 2014 on shaky financial ground, it soon saw its funding restored to pre-sequestration levels and ended the year handling a caseload almost equal to the previous fiscal year.
The 2014 Judicial Business of the United States Courts, released Tuesday, provided a snapshot of the activities of the federal judicial branch. Presented in the report are data and statistics highlighting the work of the U.S. judiciary for the fiscal year which ended Sept. 30, 2014.
Shortly after the fiscal year began, partisan wrangling boiled over and Congress failed to pass a budget. Most federal agencies either fully or partially shut down during a 16-day lapse period but the judiciary was able to continue operations by drawing upon fee revenues.
The courts were preparing for a shutdown and furlough of a substantial number of staff if the lapse in appropriations had continued. But a continuing resolution averted any work stoppage and the budget that was later passed boosted judicial spending by 5.1 percent over the fiscal year 2013 sequestration level.
Overall, the work for fiscal year 2014 was only slightly changed from the year before. Filings in the U.S. courts of appeals dipped 3 percent to 54,988. Meanwhile filings rose less than 1 percent to 376,536 in the U.S. District courts.
In the U.S. courts of appeals:
• appeals involving pro se litigants fell 3 percent but still amounted to 51 percent of the filings
• criminal appeals decreased 8 percent
• civil appeals increased 1 percent
In the U.S. District courts:
• civil case filing grew 4 percent to 295,310
• filings for criminal defendants decreased 11 percent to 81,226
• defendant filings for all major offenses declined, including drug crimes (down 14 percent), property offenses (down 11 percent), and firearms and explosives crimes (down 10 percent)
The U.S. Bankruptcy courts posted a 13 percent drop in petition filings to 963,739. Consumer petitions fell 13 percent and business petitions slumped 19 percent. Chapter 11 filings posted the biggest decline at 20 percent followed by Chapter 7 which was down 15 percent and Chapter 13 which declined 9 percent.
The federal probation and pretrial services system had 132,858 individuals under post-conviction supervision on Sept. 30, 2014, almost a 1 percent increase from the prior year. Individuals under supervised release increased 2 percent to 111,585. However, cases in the pretrial services system sunk 8 percent to 100,068.