The Role of Federal Judges and Jurisdiction
Before delving into the statistics, it's important to understand the role of United States federal judges and the concept of jurisdiction, which gives federal courts the authority to hear and decide cases. Federal judges preside over a wide range of cases, from civil disputes to criminal trials, and their decisions have a profound impact on individuals and society as a whole.
Examining the Caseload
To gain insights into the caseload of the federal judiciary, we turn to the Federal Judicial Caseload Statistics for the year 2021, compiled by the Administrative Office of the United States Courts. These statistics provide a comprehensive overview of the workload across various federal court levels, including appellate, district, and bankruptcy courts, as well as the probation and pretrial services systems.
- Appellate Courts:
- In 2021, there was an 8 percent decrease in filings in the U.S. Courts of Appeals.
- This reduction was driven by declines in civil and criminal appeals, albeit with some notable exceptions.
- Appeals related to administrative agency decisions, such as those from the Board of Immigration Appeals and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), saw an 18 percent increase.
- District Courts:
- The U.S. District Courts experienced a significant surge in filings of civil cases, with a 39 percent increase in 2021.
- Much of this growth was attributed to personal injury cases, particularly those related to multidistrict litigation.
- However, filings for criminal defendants fell by 30 percent during the same year.