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Creating New Judgeships

“Justice delayed is justice denied.”

  

Legislation has been repeatedly introduced in the Senate and House to help reduce backlogs in the nation’s district and circuit courts by authorizing additional judgeships.

 

A September 10, 2013 Judiciary subcommittee hearing discussed judgeships and S. 1385, the Federal Judgeship Act of 2013.  On July 30, 2013, Sens. Coons [D-DE] and Leahy [D-VT] introduced this bill to create new judgeships, based on recommendations of nonpartisan Judicial Conference led by Chief Justice John Roberts. Judicial Conference of the U.S. Judgeship Recommendations & Draft Legislation (04/05/13).  It would create 91 new federal judgeships in two federal circuits and 32 judicial districts across 21 states. At the hearing, testimony in support was presented by The Honorable Timothy Tymkovich Chair, Standing Committee on Judicial Resources Judicial Conference of the U.S., The Honorable Sue Robinson District of Delaware, and Michael Reed, on behalf of the American Bar Association. 

 

The American Bar Association supported legislation to authorize permanent and temporary judgeships in a Resolution approved in August 2013, which also "urge[d] the President of the United States to advance nominees for current vacancies for federal judicial positions promptly and the 8 United States Senate to hear and vote on those nominations expeditiously."

 

See Statements by Members of Congress, published Editorials & Commentary, and the positions of the Federal Bar Association, American Bar AssociationJustice at Stake, and other organizations about this and prior bills on this important issue.

 

From 1961 to 1990, Judgeship bills created 510 Judgeships over 29 years:

 

In 1961 63 District + 10 Circuit = 73 total
In 1966 35 District + 10 Circuit = 45 total
In 1970 61 District + 9 Circuit = 70 total
In 1978 117 District + 35 Circuit = 152 total
In 1984 61 District + 24 Circuit = 85 total
In 1990 74 District + 11 Circuit = 85 total

In comparison, in the 23 years from 1990 to 2013, only 91 Judgeships are needed.  

 

In May 2013, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and John Cornyn (R-TX), Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) joined in an Amendment to S. 744, the comprehensive immigration bill.  The Amendment would create three new judgeships in the Eastern District of California; two in the District of Arizona; two in the Western District of Texas; one in the Southern District of Texas, and would convert to permanent judgeships one existing temporary judgeship in the District of Arizona and one in the Central District of California.

 

The Amendment is a narrower version of the bipartisan Emergency Judicial Relief Act of 2011 and is limited to a portion of the additional seats in southern border states that federal judiciary needs according to the Chief Justice John Roberts Chaired Judicial Conference of the U.S. Judgeship Recommendations & Draft Legislation (04/05/13). The Judicial Conference stressed that “The severity of conditions in the Eastern District of California, the Eastern District of Texas, the Western District of Texas, the District of Arizona and the District of Delaware require immediate action.”

 

A bipartisan bill was approved on a bipartisan 15-3 vote at an October 13, 2011 Senate Judiciary Committee Executive Business Meeting.  On May 17, Senator Feinstein introduced the Emergency Judicial Relief Act of 2011, which would have created four new judgeships in the Eastern District of California; two in the District of Arizona; two in the Western District of Texas; one in the Southern District of Texas; and one in the District of Minnesota. The bill was co-sponsored by every senator from the affected states: Senators Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), and Al Franken (D-Minn.)

  

Another bill (S. 1032), sponsored by New Mexico Senators Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall, would have created four new permanent judgeships in Arizona, twenty in California, nine in Texas, and one in New Mexico. Additionally, the bill provides for five total temporary judgeships in those four states.  Rep. Ruben Hinojosa (D-Tex.) and cosponsors introduced H.R. 2365, the Southwest Border Judgeship Expansion Act, a companion bill to S. 1032.

The Federal Judgeship Act of 2009 (S. 1653 and H.R. 3662) would have created new federal judgeships based upon non-partisan recommendations by the Judicial Conference of the United States, the federal courts’ policy making body.

 

On September 30, 2009, a Senate Judiciary subcommittee held a hearing that included testimony by Judge George Singal, Chair of the Judicial Conference Committee on Judicial Resources, and by Judge Lawrence O’Neill.

 

In 2008, prominent Republican Senators cosponsored a very similar bill, and the Judiciary Committee’s approval included the votes of two-thirds of the Committee’s Republicans.

 

In 1990, when President George H.W. Bush signed the last comprehensive judges bill, he thanked then-Senate Judiciary Chairman Biden for giving him 85 new judgeships to fill.

 

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