US Courts report drop in appellate filings, increase in immigration defendants

Prosecutions against immigrant defendants and cases involving diversity of citizenship saw higher numbers last year, according to the United States Courts’ Annual Report and Court Statistics for 2019. Meanwhile, appellate filings dropped nationwide.

Last year, filings in the United States appellate courts dropped 2% to 48,486. Appellate filings by pro se litigants, which accounted for 49% of new cases, dropped 4%. Civil appeals fell nearly as much at 3%, while criminal appeals rose by 2%, for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2019.

Meanwhile, criminal defendant filings grew 6% to 92,678. Defendants prosecuted for immigration violations climbed 13% nationwide to 31,495 as the southwestern border districts, which received 81% of immigration defendants, had a combined increase in filings of 16%.

Total filings in the U.S. district courts increased 6% to 390,555 as civil case filings rose 5% to 297,877. Cases involving diversity of citizenship shot up by 18% to 104,803. Filings with the United States as a plaintiff decreased by 14%.

In U.S. bankruptcy courts, petitions increased by less than 1% to 776,674.

The number of people under post-conviction supervision fell less than 1% to 128,904. Cases opened in the pretrial services system, excluding pretrial diversion cases, climbed 9% to 108,163.

In addition to releasing the annual numbers, James C. Duff, director of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, released his annual report, this year discussing the federal judiciary’s efforts to increase the branch’s accountability.

Duff’s annual report highlighted new workplace protections put in place, including procedures for resolving employment disputes and a new Office of Judicial Integrity.

According to the report, the courts were subject to rigorous and comprehensive financial audits in 2019 and continued to invest heavily in cybersecurity to protect information systems during the throes of the longest government shutdown in American history.

“The Judiciary responded well to unexpected challenges in 2019, as we have in the past. And we remain committed to seeking solutions to those challenges we are well aware of,” Duff wrote.

“… The overarching objective of all these efforts in 2019 has been to maintain the public’s faith, trust, and confidence in an independent Judiciary. That is vital to our mission, and we entered a new year and a new decade as a branch in January 2020 with the same abiding commitment.”

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