The federal judiciary on March 14 reported on its progress in 2022 with court operations, including improved safety and security of judges and staff, according to an announcement from the branch.
According to a press release, Judge Roslynn Mauskopf, the director of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, credited the hard work of judges, court executives and support staff for the milestones detailed in her annual report and judicial business statistical accompaniment.
“The entire Judiciary family can take pride in the many ways it has preserved and strengthened our independent third branch of government,” she wrote in her director’s message.
The report follows a $9.1 billion budget request for the branch submitted March 9. Mauskopf wrote last week the funding is needed to maintain existing services, add some staffing to address caseload increases and bolster the branch’s IT security.
Organized in 12 chapters, the annual report described the work of the AO and the courts in 2022.
The report stated “When COVID cases rose in their regions, federal courts modified their operations, employing teleconferencing and other electronic methods to conduct business, maintaining social distancing requirements, and implementing other safety measures that presented challenges for holding in-person proceedings, including trials. In the 12-month period ending September 30, 2022, workloads in most areas of the federal Judiciary declined.”
Many courts returned to pre-pandemic operations as the COVID-19 crisis receded, according to the March 14 announcement. The judiciary noted it made progress in the early phases of the modernization of its digital case management system and the public access portal for court records, the Public Access to Court Electronic Records, or PACER, service.
In its judicial business report, the judiciary provided statistics of federal caseloads by circuit, district and offense, among other topics.
According to the announcement, total case filings in U.S. district courts fell 18% to 343,253. Civil case filings declined 20% to 274,771, and criminal filings decreased by 8% to 68,482. Petitions filed in the bankruptcy courts declined 12% to 383,810. Filings in the courts of appeals fell by 6% to 41,839.
Under the court operations section, the judiciary noted the impact of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2020 decision in McGirt v. Oklahoma, holding that land affected by an 1832 treaty between the Creek Nation and the U.S. government remains “Indian Country” for the purposes of the Major Crimes Act. As a result of the McGirt decision, cases against defendants in the Eastern and Northern Districts of Oklahoma rose dramatically with criminal felony filings increasing by 66% in the Northern District of Oklahoma and by almost 54% in the Eastern District of Oklahoma compared to the same period in September 2020, according to the report.
In the annual report’s accountability and resource management section, the judiciary noted a new free public database of federal judges’ financial disclosure and periodic transaction reports was developed and launched by the AO in 2022. Users can register for the service and immediately gain access to electronic versions of federal judges’ reports. That section of the report also detailed some of the key findings of the third report from the Judiciary’s Workplace Conduct Working Group. That report recommended the judiciary “Direct the Office of Judicial Integrity, with the assistance of the Directors of Workplace Relations, to issue an annual Judiciary workplace conduct report,” among eight other recommendations.
According to the March 14 announcement, the two reports are required by statute and are provided to Congress, the executive branch, the public and the Judicial Conference of the U.S., the federal court’s policy-making body.