(CN) – The 9th Circuit, which extends across most of the Western United States, handled 22 percent of all new federal appeals in 2011, keeping its distinction as the nation’s busiest appellate court, new statistics show.
The 15 U.S. District Courts within the circuit were busy last year as well, with immigration and drug cases in Arizona and Southern California accounting for the bulk of criminal cases, the court’s public information office said Thursday.
Immigration offenses increased by 12.5 percent with 10,091 new cases, accounting for nearly half of the total criminal filings in the circuit. Cases of illegal re-entry rose 16.5 percent with 8,546 total cases. Drug offenses jumped 33.6 percent, with marijuana involved in 48 percent of them.
The District of Arizona ranked first in the nation for drug offenses. Some 22 percent of all drug cases went through Arizona. It reported 8,834 criminal filings, up 29.2 percent. The Southern District of California had 5,633 criminal cases, up 14.3 percent.
Civil filings in the 15 District Courts increased 5 percent over the previous year, numbering 46,373 and outpacing a nationwide increase of 2.2 percent.
The numbers show a slight uptick in new appeals filed in the 9th Circuit in 2011 over the previous year, but a “significant reduction in pending caseload” for the second year in a row. There were 12,141 new appeals filed last year in the San Francisco-based court, up just over 1 percent. Most circuits saw their new filings drop in 2011 – some by more than 7 percent. There were 55,126 appeals filed nationwide, a 1.5 percent drop.
Terminations slowed last year, but they outpaced new filings.
“While terminations were down 2.4 percent from the prior year, judges and court staff were able to reduce the court’s pending caseload by 5.9 percent to 14,041 cases,” the court said. “The court had reduced its caseload by 8.2 percent in the prior year.”