COVID-19 Has Not Stemmed Flow of New Federal Civil Litigation
(02 Jun 2020) April 2020 saw record civil filings in the U.S. District Courts with a total of 56,519 new lawsuits filed-more than double the 24,488 filed just six months ago. Driving this increase has been the growth in suits filed by veterans alleging personal injury from defective 3M earplugs. Even when these suits are removed from the totals, the overall flow of new lawsuits has continued seemingly unaffected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The picture presented for federal civil litigation contrasts sharply with trends in federal criminal prosecutions, which have sharply plummeted due to COVID-19. Federally initiated civil suits, however, are just one to two percent of all civil litigation. While such civil suits did decline by roughly 30 percent, the number of cases this decline represented was too small to materially impact overall civil filings.

Only four of the nation's 94 federal judicial districts appeared to have declines that may have signaled some impact of the COVID-19 pandemic-declines between February and April of at least 100 fewer cases, representing a drop of 25 percent or more. These four districts were all centered in or around major metropolitan areas: the Northern District of Illinois (Chicago), the Southern District of New York (Manhattan), the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia), and the Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn).

Of the remaining districts, around four in ten experienced small declines while six in ten experienced increased filings. These changes more likely reflect normal month-to- month variation than any impact of COVID-19.

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