Senate Bill Reintroduced To Address Judicial 'Emergencies'

By Courtney Bublé | September 12, 2023, 6:48 PM EDT ·

A bipartisan group of senators announced Tuesday they have reintroduced legislation to create 66 new district judgeships following the next two presidential elections in order to alleviate workloads on the courts.

The Judicial Understaffing Delays Getting Emergencies Solved, or JUDGES, Act follows a recommendation from the Judicial Conference of the United States earlier this year.

"Too many Americans are being denied access to our justice system due to an overload of cases and a shortage of judges," Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., who introduced the bill along with Sens. Chris Coons, D-Del., James Lankford, R-Okla., and Alex Padilla, D-Calif., said in a statement on Tuesday.

On or after Jan. 21, 2025, the bill would create 32 new judgeships for Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York and Texas. Then, on or after Jan. 21, 2029, it would establish 31 additional judgeships for Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, New Jersey, New York and Texas.

The legislation would also establish three temporary judgeships for Oklahoma in 2025 and convert seven temporary judgeships in Missouri, Arizona, California, Florida, New Mexico, North Carolina and Texas to permanent ones, while also extending the tenure of temporary judgeships in Kansas and Alabama.

This largely hews to the Judicial Conference's recommendations. However, the bill does not address creating two permanent judgeships on the Ninth Circuit.

The last time Congress created a new district judgeship was in 2003, and the last time there was "comprehensive" legislation on the issue was in 1990. The text of the bill states that by the end of fiscal year 2022, district court filings had jumped 30% since the last update.

As of Tuesday afternoon, there are 18 judicial "emergencies," which are calculated based on how long the vacancies have persisted and the courts' caseloads, according to the Judicial Conference's data. The emergencies are in district courts in Louisiana, Texas, California and Florida as well as on the Fifth Circuit.

"This bill doesn't deal with existing vacancies, but rather, the issue of overworked district courts as identified by a non-partisan body based on caseload," a spokesperson for Sen. Young told Law360.

The legislation was previously introduced in 2020 and 2021.

As Law360 previously reported, while there has been bipartisan interest in adding more judgeships in the past, the issue has been doing so when each party fears seats will be filled by a president of the opposite party.

--Editing by Philip Shea.

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