The latest available data from the federal courts show that during February 2020 the government reported 39,142 new civil filings.
According to the case-by-case information
analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), this number
is up 31.6% over the previous month when the number of civil filings of this type totaled
The comparisons of the number of civil filings are based on case-by-case court records which were compiled and analyzed by TRAC (see Table 1).
When monthly 2020 civil filings of this type are compared with those of the same period in
the previous year, their number was up (14.8%).
Civil filings for February 2020 are higher than they were for the same period five years ago.
Overall, the data show that civil filings of this type are up 20.6% from levels reported in February 2015.
Figure 1. Civil Filings Over the Last Five Years
The long term trend in civil filings for these matters going back five years
is shown more clearly in Figure 1. The vertical bars in Figure 1
represent the number of civil filings of this type recorded each
month. The superimposed line on the bars plots the six-month moving average so that natural
fluctuations are smoothed out.
One-year and five-year change comparisons are based upon the moving averages.
Types of filings
Cases were classified by the federal courts into general types.
The single largest number of civil filings of these matters during February 2020 was for "Torts - Personal Injury - Product Liability", accounting for 52.7% of civil filings.
As shown in Figure 2, additional categories with substantial numbers of civil filings were "Prisoner Petitions " (10.5%) , "Civil Rights" (8.7%), "Contract" (5.4%), "Torts - Personal Injury - Other" (4.6%).
Within limits set by Congress and the Constitution, the federal district courts have jurisdiction to hear cases falling under any one of several categories.
The single largest number of civil filings of these matters during February 2020 was under the classification "Diversity", accounting for 61.0% of civil filings.
As shown in Figure 2, additional categories with substantial numbers of civil filings were "Federal Question" (26.9%) , "U.S. Government Defendant" (7.0%), "U.S. Government Plaintiff" (0.7%), "Local Question" (0.0%).
Figure 2. Civil Filings by General Types
Figure 3. Jurisdiction for civil filings
Rankings: Specific Nature of Suits
Court filings are also classified based upon the specific nature of the suit. Table 2 shows the top nature of suit categories recorded in the matters
filed during February 2020
"Personal Injury- Product Liability" was the most frequent recorded nature of suit category.
"Personal Injury- Product Liability" was ranked 4th a year ago, while it was the 2nd most frequently invoked five years ago.
Ranked 2nd in frequency was the nature of suit category "Health Care / Pharmaceutical Personal Injury Product Liability".
"Health Care / Pharmaceutical Personal Injury Product Liability" was ranked 1st a year ago, while it was the 5th most frequently invoked five years ago.
Ranked 3rd was "Civil Rights".
"Civil Rights" was ranked 3rd a year ago, while it was the 3rd most frequently invoked five years ago.
Among these top nature of suit categories, the one showing the greatest
increase in civil filings — up 1197.1 percent — compared to one year ago was
"Personal Injury- Product Liability".
This was the same category that had the largest increase — 1331.9 percent — when compared with five years ago.
Again among the top ten nature of suit categories, the one showing the sharpest
decline in civil filings compared to one year ago — down 38.1 percent — was
"Other Personal Injury".
This was the same statute that had the largest decrease — 12.2 percent — when compared with five years ago.
Top Ranked Judicial Districts
Relative to population, the volume of civil matters of this type filed in federal district courts during February 2020 was 119.7 per every million persons in the United States.
One year ago the relative number of filings was 68.2.
Understandably, there is great variation in the per capita number of civil filings in
each of the nation's ninety-four federal judicial districts.
Table 3. Top Ten Districts (per one million people)
The Northern District of Florida — with 9,343.7 civil filings as compared with 119.7 civil filings per one million people in the United States — was the most active during February 2020.
The Northern District of Florida was ranked 7th a year ago.
The District of Washington, D.C. ranked 2nd.
The District of Washington, D.C. was ranked 2nd a year ago as well as five years ago.
The District of New Jersey now ranks 3rd.
The District of New Jersey was ranked 5th a year ago.
Recent entries to the top 10 list were Eastern District of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia), Northern District of Illinois (Chicago) and Southern District of Ohio (Cincinnati), now ranked 8th, 10th and 9th. These districts ranked 12th, 13th and 15th one year ago and 7th, 14th and 17th five years ago.
The federal judicial district which showed the greatest growth in the rate of civil filings
compared to one year ago — 7351.7 percent — was Northern District of Florida.
This was the same district that had the largest increase — 10209 percent — when compared with five years ago.
In the last year, the judicial District Court recording the largest drop in the rate of civil filings — 74.6 percent — was Eastern District of Louisiana.
But over the past five years, Eastern District of Pennsylvania showed the largest drop — 7.3 percent.