This article examines the history of federal criminal jurisdiction and criminal enforcement, and reviews federal caseload statistics. The federal criminal caseload grew dramatically between 1980 and the mid-1990s, but this increase tells only part of the story. The federal criminal caseload has fluctuated widely over the past two decades, and the number of criminal cases today is about the same as it was in the early 1970s. Although criminal cases now account for only one-fifth of the federal caseload, they take a large and disproportionate share of federal judicial resources. In more than one-third of federal judicial districts, criminal cases now compose more than half of the trial docket. The increased allocation of judicial resources to criminal cases reflects not only changes in the kinds of criminal cases being prosecuted but factors including more time-consuming sentencing procedures and a higher conviction rate.
Sara Sun Beale, Federalizing Crime: Assessing the Impact on the Federal Courts, 543 Annals of the American Academy of Political & Social Science 39-51 (1996).