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Federal court complaints drop while appeals rise

While filings at the trial level of federal courts declined in the last fiscal year, appellate cases were on the uptick, according to the latest data submitted by federal court officials to the U.S. Judicial Conference.

The data covers the 12-month period that ended Sept. 30, 2012.

At the district court level, while the total number of filings in all cases fell 5 percent to 372,563, criminal filings fell 9 percent to 94,121 in fiscal 2012 after reaching a record high in 2011. Civil filings dropped 4 percent to 278,442.

There was a 14 percent drop in the number of bankruptcy petitions filed in fiscal 2013, bringing the total to 1,261,140.  The number of non-business bankruptcy petitions dropped by 14 percent, while business-related petitions fell 16 percent. Chapter 7 filings fell 16 percent, Chapter 11 filings fell by 12 percent and 10 percent fewer petitions were filed under Chapter 13.

While there were 132,340 people under post-conviction supervision last year, a 2-percent increase over the year before, cases opened in the pretrial services system fell 4 percent to 109,242.

Though filings in federal appellate courts rose 4 percent overall, that increase was not driven by appeals in civil cases, which fell by 1 percent. Criminal appeals rose 12 percent last fiscal year, appeals of administrative agency decisions increased by 11 percent and bankruptcy appeals rose 19 percent.

- Kimberly Atkins, LawyersUSA

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