The federal judiciary is again asking for more new judgeships from Congress, slicing its previous request from 2021 by several positions as previous bills to add requested seats have stalled.
The Judicial Conference, the judiciary’s policymaking arm, on Tuesday approved a request for Congress to add 68 new permanent judgeships and convert seven temporary district positions to permanent ones. In 2021, it asked to add 79 permanent judgeships and make nine temporary district positions permanent.
Despite regular requests, the judiciary hasn’t received a comprehensive package of new judgeships in more than 30 years. A bipartisan proposal to add just the district slots the judiciary requested in 2021 didn’t move forward last Congress.
The new request includes two new appellate positions on the California-based US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and 66 permanent district judgeships.
The additional judgeships are needed so that the average caseloads that judges hear “remains manageable,” Lavenski Smith, chair of the Judicial Conference executive committee and chief judge of the St. Louis-based Eighth Circuit, told reporters.
Disclosure of the new request came after the Judicial Conference met for a semiannual meeting, which was held behind closed doors.
When asked why the requested number of judgeships was lower than the previous proposal, Smith cited “diminished” case filings at the district and circuit levels.
In a report on judicial business also released Tuesday, the courts said “workloads in most areas of the federal Judiciary declined” in the 12-month reporting period that ended in September. That included reductions of 20% in civil case filings and 8% in criminal defendant filings in district courts, and a 6% drop in regional appellate court filings.
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