Padilla Introduces JUDGES Act to Address Judicial Emergencies

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senators Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Todd Young (R-Ind.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), and James Lankford (R-Okla.) introduced bipartisan legislation to address the judicial emergencies occurring in district courts across America in a nonpartisan manner. The Judicial Understaffing Delays Getting Emergencies Solved (JUDGES) Act would address these judicial shortages by increasing the number of federal district judges across the country in line with the nonpartisan recommendations made by the Judicial Commission, including in the four California districts.

Courts across the country are overburdened and facing a shortage of federal judges. As of March 31, 2023, there were 686,797 pending cases in federal district courts across the country, averaging 491 filings per judgeship over a 12-month period. Earlier this year, the Judicial Conference of the United States, a nonpartisan policy-making body for federal courts, recommended that Congress create 66 new district court judgeships, including 21 in California, to help alleviate this crisis.

“Every American deserves the right to address their concerns in court in a timely manner, but U.S. district courts across California and the nation have been overwhelmed by pending cases with too few judges to hear them,” said Senator Padilla. “This bipartisan legislation would help address this shortage by adding 21 judges to federal district courts throughout California over the next six years, strengthening our justice system and giving a voice to more Californians in the court of law.”

“Too many Americans are being denied access to our justice system due to an overload of cases and a shortage of judges,” said Senator Young. “These judicial emergencies are affecting Indiana and a number of other states across the country. Our bipartisan bill will help address this shortage and ensure all Americans have the opportunity to have their day in court.”

“Congress has a 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. In Delaware and across the country, however, district courts face a crisis of judicial resources and overburdened dockets. That is why I’m working across the aisle on my JUDGES Act, which would create two new judgeships in Delaware and bolster our federal judiciary in the most overburdened districts across America,” said Senator Coons. 

This bipartisan bill would act on the findings in the 2023 Judicial Conference of the United States report by creating the recommended judgeships after future presidential elections — half on January 21, 2025, and half on January 21, 2029. In California, the bill would create additional much-needed judgeships: nine in the Central District, four in the Eastern District, six in the Northern District, and two in the Southern District.

Congress bears the constitutional responsibility of establishing judgeships in the district courts of the United States. However, the last comprehensive authorization of new judgeships, which established 11 additional circuit court judgeships and 74 district court judgeships across America, occurred in 1990. Since then, targeted legislation enacted between 1999 and 2003 created 34 additional district court judgeships. It has now been two decades since Congress last authorized additional district judgeships.

Full text of the bill is available here.


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