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Federal Judiciary Says New Judgeships Needed

March 13, 2007

Contact: David Sellers, 202-502-2600

The Judicial Conference of the United States today voted to ask Congress to create 67 new federal judgeships-15 for the courts of appeals and 52 for the district courts.

Congress has not increased the number of appellate judges since it last enacted an omnibus judgeship bill in 1990. Since that time, the number of court of appeals judgeships has remained at 179, even though federal appellate court case filings have risen by 55 percent over the same 17-year time period.

In various appropriations measures, Congress has increased the number of district court judgeships by 4 percent, from 645 to 674, since 1990, a period in which district court case filings have risen by 29 percent.

The Conference also voted to request that Congress make permanent five temporary judgeships and extend one temporary judgeship by another five years. See Related Items for a list of all the requested judgeships.

In other matters, the Conference:

  • Endorsed a six-to-12-month pilot project in which several courts will make digital audio recordings of courtroom proceedings publicly available online through the PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records) system. Use of digital audio recording as a method of making a court record was approved by the Conference in 1999, and audio recordings of court proceedings routinely have been available for purchase at clerks' offices in courts where recording devices are used to take the record of proceedings.
  • Strongly urged all federal district courts with electronic dockets to indicate clearly when cases are sealed by using computer notices that state "case under seal" rather than "case does not exist."
  • Authorized and directed its Committee on Judicial Conduct and Disability to recommend guidelines and, if necessary, new rules for implementing the judicial disability statute in a uniform manner throughout the federal court system. In September 2006, the Committee was tasked with reviewing the recommendations of the Judicial Disability Act Study Committee, which was chaired by Justice Stephen Breyer.

The Judicial Conference is the principal policy-making body for the federal court system. The Chief Justice serves as the presiding officer of the Conference, which is composed of the chief judges of the 13 courts of appeals, a district judge from each of the 12 geographic circuits, and the chief judge of the Court of International Trade. The Conference meets twice a year to consider administrative and policy issues affecting the court system, and to make recommendations to Congress concerning legislation involving the Judicial Branch. See the Related Items box for a list of the March 2007 Conference members.