WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Todd Young (R-Ind.) introduced legislation this week to address the shortage of judicial resources in districts across the United States. Federal courts across the country are experiencing significant case backlogs as the result of a lack of federal judges. In March, the Judicial Conference of the United States, a nonpartisan policy-making body for federal courts, recommended that Congress create 77 new district court judgeships to help alleviate this access-to-justice crisis. The Judicial Understaffing Delays Getting Emergencies Solved (JUDGES) Act would act on this report and increase the number of federal district judges in the most overworked regions of the country.
“Lower courts across the country, including in Delaware, are struggling to keep up with growing caseloads,” said Senator Coons. “Congress has a constitutional responsibility to ensure that the federal judiciary is able to give every litigant their day in court and that the justice system is accessible to all. For too long, Congress has failed to act to enable the proper functioning of our courts, and I am proud to work in a bipartisan fashion to address this access-to-justice crisis.”
“The current judicial emergency is hindering Hoosiers’ opportunity to have their day in court due to an overload of cases and a shortage of judges. This is a serious problem that has only escalated throughout the pandemic,” said Senator Young. “My bipartisan bill will help ensure all Americans can receive a timely day in federal court in the overworked regions of the country.”
The last comprehensive authorization of new judgeships occurred in 1990, which established 11 additional circuit court judgeships and 74 district court judgeships across America. Since then, smaller legislative proposals were enacted between 1999 and 2003 that created 34 additional district court judgeships. However, it has been nearly 20 years since Congress last authorized additional district judgeships, the longest time the Congress has gone without creating a new district court judgeship since 1789.
“Countless Americans seeking their day in court badly need Congress to authorize more judgeships to handle burgeoning caseloads. But for decades, lawmakers have either ignored this access-to-justice crisis or offered bills that would plainly benefit one party over another,” said Gabe Roth, Executive Director of Fix the Court. “Thankfully, today’s legislation from Sens. Coons and Young demonstrates that leaders in both parties can find a solution that will dramatically improve access to the courtroom and help to address judicial emergencies across the country.”
Bill text is available here.