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Federal Judicial Caseloads, 1789-2016


The number of cases handled by the federal courts has long featured prominently in debates over the judiciary’s institutional structure and mission. This page presents some of the available data on federal judicial caseloads with a view to augmenting that broader history. Readers interested in the substance of debates implicating judicial caseloads should consult the FJC’s documentary histories of Debates on the Federal Judiciary.[1] Supporting data for the charts and graphs presented on this page are available on the Caseloads page of this website.

It is important to note that the methods used to collect and report statistics, as well as the definitions of terms used for both purposes, have changed frequently. These changes counsel caution in drawing conclusions based on comparisons between statistics for periods employing different methods or definitions. The Caseloads page contains further details about some of the major changes in caseload collection and reporting over time.       


[1] See also, Justin Crowe, Building the Federal Judiciary: Law, Courts, and the Politics of Institutional Development (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2012).