Analytics Reveal Top Firms, Parties in SDNY

The Southern District of New York is one of the thirteen oldest federal judicial districts in the United States, founded in the Judiciary Act of 1789. In 1814, the then District of New York was split into the Southern District and the Northern District. Today, it is one of the busiest districts in the country serving the counties of New York, Bronx, Westchester, Rockland, Putnam, Orange, Dutchess, and Sullivan. This analysis examines the current state of the district from January 2019 through March 2023.

The Big Picture

Looking at total cases over time, while there is some variance, cases are largely consistent around a mean of 1162 cases per month. The obvious exception to this, is the steep dropoff at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The plurality are criminal, followed by Civil Rights–Americans with Disabilities Act–Other, Civil Rights Other, and Contract–Other. For descriptions of these federal Nature of Suit (NOS) codes, see this guide. Since criminal cases as of yet are not tagged with metadata, the rest of this analysis will focus on civil cases. Looking at the top NOS codes over time, the only code that significantly tracks with the total is Civil Rights–Americans with Disabilities Act–Other. 

The Parties

Perhaps unsurprisingly, governmental bodies top the list of parties involved. The United States, itself, deals with the most cases. Of the civil cases, it spends equal time as defendant and plaintiff. The plurality of these cases are suits over vacating the sentences of prisoners followed by medical malpractice, the Administrative State Act, and Civil Rights–Other.

The Social Security Administration and its commissioner are also major parties within the district. The numbers and types of cases each deals with are highly correlated, though the role they play is different. While the commissioner is overwhelmingly a defendant in these cases, the administration itself is almost always an interested party.

The City of New York sees the fourth most cases of all parties, almost always as a defendant. Half of these cases are listed as Civil Rights–Other, which the judiciary defines as “Action[s] alleging a civil rights violation other than the specific civil rights categories listed below or a violation related to prison. Example: Action alleging excessive force by police incident to an arrest.”

Following the City itself, New York City’s Department of Cases sees a sizable chunk of cases in the district. They are the defendant in all but two cases, and the majority of these deal with the Americans with Disabilities Act as it relates to education.

Unsurprisingly, the largest portion of individual parties are Does. John and Jane Does are usually defendants, and show up in primarily copyright cases. Less often they appear in various civil rights cases and sometimes in Fair Labor Standards Act cases.

The single individual who is involved in more cases than any other is Department of Homeland Security Secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas. Predictably, he largely deals with immigration cases. While his name does pop up in six cases that began before his tenure, these cases bridge the transition of power and as such, he was added once he became DHS Secretary.

The company involved in more suits than any other is credit reporting agency Equifax Inc. They were always the defendant, and the vast majority of these cases deal with consumer credit. They usually work with Clark Hill and Seyfarth Shaw. 


As has been the trend, governmental “firms” form the biggest blocc of law practices in the district. Most active are the US Department of Justice (DOJ), the US Attorney’s Office of the Department of Justice, the New York City Law Department, the US Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of New York, and New York Disability. In civil suits, all of these offices primarily defend their respective governmental bodies with the exception of NY Disability. The bulk of the DOJ’s came over the course of the heart of the COVID-19 pandemic, and as to case numbers more broadly, only those of the DOJ and New York Disability correlate. It is unclear what this means, if anything.

Regarding private firms, on average, firms representing plaintiffs seem to be more active in the district than firms representing defendants. The former are also far more specialized than the latter, with five of the top six handling almost exclusively Americans with Disabilities Act cases. The outlier, Leibowitz Law Firm, handled only copyright litigation. It should be noted that of these six, Mizrahi Kroub is a reformation of Cohen and Mizrahi. Of these plaintiff firms Stein Saks and Cohen and Mizrahi’s case numbers correlate, as do those of the Leibowitz Law Firm and Gottlieb & Associates. And looking at all six, only the case numbers of Mizrahi Kroub, Stein Saks, Cohen & Mizrahi, and The Weitz Law Firm significantly track with the total numbers in the district.

Firms representing defendants covered a great milieu of case types, suggesting while these firms do specialize, they are still handling all or most of their clients’ cases. These firms’ activity was independent of the case totals for the district. And of these firms, only the caseloads of Denton’s and Littler Mendelson correlated.