US chief justice issues one-page federal judiciary report

[JURIST] US Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. [OYEZ profile] issued an unusually brief year-end report [PDF] on the federal judiciary Thursday in his capacity as head of the Judicial Conference of the United States [official website], declining to address judiciary needs as done in previous years. On a single page, the 2009 report said the federal courts were "operating soundly" and thanked judges and court employees for their service. The report skirted budgetary requests, reasoning that only essential information should be passed on when the federal government was facing "many difficult issues" and when many citizens were experiencing hardship. In a four-page statistical appendix, however, Roberts noted several significant trends:

  • The total number of cases filed in the Supreme Court decreased from 8,241 filings in the 2007 Term to 7,738 filings in the 2008 Term—a decrease of 6.1%.
  • The number of cases filed in the Court’s in forma pauperis docket decreased from 6,627 filings in the 2007 Term to 6,142 filings in the 2008 Term—a 7.3% decrease.
  • In 2009, filings in the regional courts of appeals declined 6% to 57,740. Filings of criminal appeals, bankruptcy appeals, and original proceedings rose, but reductions occurred in filings of civil appeals and appeals of administrative agency decisions.
  • Civil filings in the U.S. district courts rose 3%, increasing by 9,140 cases to 276,397.
  • Criminal case filings (including transfers) rose 8% to 76,655, and the number of defendants climbed 6% to 97,982, surpassing the previous record for the number of defendants, 92,714, set in 2003. The number of criminal cases reached its highest level since 1932, the year before ratification of the Twenty-first Amendment, which repealed prohibition.
  • Immigration filings climbed to record levels, as cases jumped 21% to 25,804, and the number of defendants rose 19% to 26,961.
Last year, Roberts' report called for cost-of-living raises for federal judges. In his 2007 report [JURIST report], Roberts called for judicial pay raises in accordance with pending legislation. In 2006 [JURIST report], Roberts declared that raises were necessary to keep up with private-sector salaries and to maintain the quality and independence of federal judges. Roberts' first annual report [JURIST report] as Chief Justice in 2005 contained similar requests.

 

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