Bankruptcy Cases = 75% Of All Federal Court Filings? (A Study)

Three out of four?

By: Donald L Swanson

Consistently, the highest percentage of filings in the federal docket is bankruptcy cases, which can be up to 75% of filings.”

That’s a conclusion by the authors of a 2014 study.[Fn. 1] 


Here are bankruptcy-specific details and explanations from that same study:

  • The number of bankruptcy cases tend to fluctuate with the economic climate.
  • For example:
    • in 1997, there were almost 1,500,000 bankruptcy cases filed in federal court;
    • in 2007 by contrast, there were 800,000 bankruptcy filings; but
    • by 2010, federal bankruptcy filings were again over 1,500,000 per year.[Fn. 2]

All Filings

The same study provides additional detail, such as: over 100 million lawsuits (including bankruptcy cases) are filed in the United States each year.

In 2010, for example, the breakdown of filing numbers is (emphasis added):

  • 106 million cases are filed in state and federal courts in the United States;
  • only 2 million of those cases are filed in federal court, consisting of—
    • 300,000 civil cases;
    • 100,000 criminal defendants (federal courts report defendants, not cases);
    • over 1.5 million bankruptcy cases; and
    • other categories of post-conviction supervision and pretrial supervision;
  • 104 million of those cases are filed in state courts, including—
    • 55 million traffic cases;
    • 21 million criminal cases;
    • 20 million civil cases;
    • 6 million domestic cases; and
    • 2 million juvenile cases.[Fn. 3]


Such statistics are surprising:

  • Who would’ve guessed that bankruptcy provides up to 75% of federal court cases? 
  • And who would’ve guessed that state court cases outnumber federal court cases by a factor of 104-to-2?

Lots of people, probably.

But for the rest of us, as the saying goes: “Learn something new every day.”


Footnote 1.  The study is by John Barkai and Elizabeth Kent titled, “Let’s Stop Spreading Rumors About Settlement and Litigation: A Comparative Study of Settlement and Litigation in Hawaii Courts,” and is published at 29 Ohio State Journal on Dispute Resolution, 85-158 (2014).  The “75% of filings” quote is at page 96.

Footnote 2.  Id., at 97.

Footnote 3.  Id., at 95.

** If you find this article of value, please feel free to share. If you’d like to discuss, let me know.

2 thoughts on “Bankruptcy Cases = 75% Of All Federal Court Filings? (A Study)

Add yours

  1. It’s amazing how much can change in 12 years. There were 387,721 bankruptcies filed in 2022. (that’s a 6.3% decrease compared to 2021, with the number adjusted to not mess up the URL). That’s a 50% drop since the last full pre-pandemic year, when 774,940 bankruptcies were filed.

    So, in nine years filings dropped 50%, but it only took three more years (and a world-altering pandemic) for those filings to drop another 50%. In that same time the country’s population has increased by 8%. So, in 2010 about 0.5% of the US population filed for bankruptcy, while in 2022 about 0.1% of the US population filed for bankruptcy.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: