Federal Courts, the Budget and Immigration Cases
The Federal judiciary can run for about two weeks if there's a shutdown. After that, things will get dicey.
The federal court budget request for 2012 contains only a modest increase. By contrast, the Department of Justice and Homeland Security budgets contain big increases, which will mean more federal criminal cases. The courts don't have the luxury of declining cases. If the feds bring them, they have to hear them.
A big part of the cost is the slew of immigration cases: From Judge Julia Gibbons testimony to a House Appropriations subcommittee released today:
Criminal case filings nationally grew 25 percent between 2000 and 2010 with immigration prosecutions in the five judicial districts along the Southwest Border fueling that growth. Immigration caseload now accounts for 36 percent of all criminal prosecutions nationwide and has surpassed drug and fraud prosecutions combined. These immigration prosecutions are separate from the immigration actions handled administratively by the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice.
The most startling statistic is that of the 78,213 total criminal case filings in 2010, 31,863 cases (41 percent) were prosecuted in the Southwest Border districts. In other words, five out of 94 federal judicial districts nationwide are handling 41 percent of all federal criminal cases. It is very clear that the additional annual and supplemental appropriations provided to the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice for zero tolerance border security initiatives, such as Operation Streamline, are resulting in additional criminal filings on the Southwest Border.
We are grateful for the $20 million in emergency funding this Committee provided over the last two years. This one-time funding allowed us to address, in the short-term, our most urgent workload needs, particularly along the Southwest Border.
The President’s 2012 Budget for the Executive Branch continues the expanded funding for immigration enforcement activities on the border and elsewhere, and it is important that Congress provide the resources needed for the federal courts to keep up with that workload. I would note that immigration cases are prosecuted throughout the country and are not limited to the Southwest Border. Although nearly three-quarters (20,682) of all criminal immigration cases are prosecuted along the Southwest Border, there were also nearly 7,500 immigration cases prosecuted in the remaining 89 federal district courts across the country.
Filings of criminal cases (including transfers) increased 2 percent to 78,428. The number of criminal defendants (including transfers) also rose 2 percent to 100,366, surpassing the previous record of 97,982 set in 2009. Proceedings were concluded against 98,311 defendants, 91 percent of whom were convicted, with 89 percent pleading guilty.
Immigration cases, which climbed 9 percent to 28,046, constituted 36 percent of all criminal cases filed, compared to 34 percent in 2009. The majority of immigration filings involved improper reentry of aliens, and 73 percent of all immigration cases were filed in the District of Arizona, the Southern District of California, the District of New Mexico, and the Southern and Western Districts of Texas.
Filings addressing fraud grew 12 percent to 9,371 for cases, and rose 13 percent to 12,639 for defendants in these cases.
Twenty percent of all criminal cases were drug offenses, compared to 22 percent in 2009. Cases involving drug offenses decreased 5 percent to 15,785, and defendants in those cases declined 2 percent to 29,410. Marijuana cases dropped 10 percent overall, but filings related to possession of marijuana increased, with cases climbing 26 percent to 1,248 and defendants rising 28 percent to 1,305. Drug cases involving non-marijuana offenses declined 3 percent to 10,817, and defendants in those cases fell 2 percent to 21,918.
Firearms and explosives cases, which account for 9 percent of total criminal case filings, declined 7 percent to 7,248. Defendants in those cases dropped 6 percent to 8,376.
Defender Services. This program, which provides criminal defense services to indigent defendants under the Criminal Justice Act, requires $1.1 billion in FY 2012 to handle 206,200 defense representations.
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