FJA Legislative Report

On Thursday, April 26, 2018, leaders of the Federal Bar Association met with lawmakers on Capitol Hill to urge adequate funding for the federal courts, prompt action in filling judicial vacancies, recommend the creation of additional judgeship positions in high caseload districts, and propose the establishment of an Article I Immigration Court.   

Funding the Judiciary

The Judiciary’s FY 2019 budget request of $ 7.2 billion in discretionary appropriations reflects an increase of 3.2 percent above the fiscal year 2018 appropriation. The funding will maintain current services across the Judiciary, and sustain ongoing initiatives, including cybersecurity improvement.

Filling Vacancies

There are historically high levels of vacancies on the Federal appellate and district court bench. As of May 8, 2018, there were 18 vacancies in the Courts of Appeals with 9 nominees pending; 122 vacancies in the District Courts with 57 nominees pending; 2 vacancies in the Court of International Trade with no nominees pending; and 6 vacancies in the Court of Federal Claims with 2 nominees pending. The Senate has confirmed a total of 33 Article III Trump nominees. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley intends to hold 20 nominations hearings in 2018, typically one every other week, with the hopes of confirming 18 circuit court judges this year. The Senate Rules Committee also approved a change in the rules to speed up consideration of judicial nominees by reducing the 30 hours of debate available prior to cloture to 8 hours and capping post-cloture debate at 2 hours.

Adding Judgeships

The Federal Bar Association supports adding 5 permanent judgeships in the courts of appeals, 52 permanent judgeships in the district courts, and converting 8 temporary district judgeships to permanent status. Since the last comprehensive judgeship legislation was enacted almost 30 years ago, the number of cases filed has increased by 40 percent in the courts of appeals and 38 percent in the district courts. There has been only a 4 percent increase in judgeships. The last permanent judgeships were created in 2002. This situation has created enormous difficulties for many federal courts across the country, most severely for the Eastern District of Texas, the Eastern District of California, the Southern District of Indiana, the Western District of Texas and the Southern District of Florida.

Establishing an Article I Immigration Court

Since 2013 the Federal Bar Association has urged Congress to establish an Article I “United States Immigration Court” to replace the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) in the U.S. Department of Justice as the principal adjudicatory forum under title II of the Immigration and Nationality Act. The June 2017 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report documented EOIR case backlogs of epic size, costly and ineffective case management, and reliance on outdated technologies and reported that a majority of immigration court experts and stakeholders interviewed favored EOIR replacement with an independent Article I immigration court.

The link to the podcast of the Federal Bar Association-National Constitution Center program on the Trump federal judiciary, recorded on March 24 at the FBA Mid-Year Meeting, is here

Other materials related to the FBA Mid-Year meeting are posted on the FBA website here