Federal Government Civil Filings Rebound After the Shutdown
The latest available data from the federal courts for February 2019 show that the number of civil suits filed by the U.S. government has rebounded from their depressed levels during the federal government partial shutdown. See Figure 1. The number of federal civil suits where the U.S. government was recorded as the plaintiff during February was 285. This is roughly the same number that the courts received during October and the month of November 2018 before the shutdown began.
Compared with the 285 suits filed during February, only 190 were initiated by the government during January 2019 at the height of the shutdown. These findings are based on case-by-case court records analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University.
The long term trend in civil filings initiated by the United States going back five years is also shown 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.
Figure 1. Federal Government Civil Filings Over the Last Five Years
(Click for larger image)
Currently available information does not pinpoint exactly which types of suits may have been most impacted by the shutdown. Even absent a shutdown, the composition of civil litigation initiated in the federal courts by the government can vary from month to month. Some suits are preceded by lengthy investigations, while others go quickly from consideration to filing. The data do suggest that some categories of litigation falling under a miscellaneous list the court labels as "Other Statutes" may have been most affected. See Table 1.
 Because of reporting limitations, coverage does not include the Central District of California (Los Angeles) or the Northern District of Georgia (Atlanta).
Each month, TRAC offers a free report focused on one area of civil litigation in the U.S. district courts. In addition, subscribers to the TRACFed data service can generate custom reports by district, office, nature of suit or federal jurisdiction via the TRAC Data Interpreter.