Lawmakers yesterday introduced a bill that would boost the number of judges in federal district and appellate courts.
The Federal Judgeship Act of 2008, sponsored by Sens. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., is aimed at easing judges’ caseloads in federal courts.
The measure would add 12 permanent seats to U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals and 38 permanent seats to U.S. District Courts across the country. It would also make five temporary judgeships – one each in Arizona, Hawaii, Kansas, Missouri and New Mexico – permanent. It would also put two temporary seats in the Ninth Circuit and 14 temporary district court seats around the country. It would take effect the day after the next president is inaugurated.
“Federal courts protect our most cherished liberties and rights,” said Leahy, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “In order to safeguard these rights, our Federal courts must have an adequate number of judges to deliver justice in the most efficient way. This bipartisan effort is long overdue.”
Lawmakers noted that caseloads for federal judges are near record highs. In 2006, district court judges faced an average of 464 cases each, while three-judge panels at the Circuit court level averaged close 1,230 cases. The numbers are well above the standard set by the Judicial Conference, which supports the legislation.
“Since 1990, case filings in our Federal appellate courts have increased by 55 percent and case filings on our district courts have risen by 29 percent,” Leahy said. “Without a comprehensive bill, Congress has proceeded to authorize only a few additional district court judgeships and extend temporary judgeships when it could.”
If passed it would be the first major expansion of judicial seats since 1990.