Senate Committee Advances Padilla’s JUDGES Act to Address Judicial Emergencies

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee advanced bipartisan legislation led by Senators Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Todd Young (R-Ind.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), and James Lankford (R-Okla.) to address rising case backlogs across America. The Judicial Understaffing Delays Getting Emergencies Solved (JUDGES) Act would address judicial shortages contributing to these backlogs by increasing the number of federal district judges across the country, including in each of the four California districts, in line with the nonpartisan recommendations made by the Judicial Conference of the United States.

Congress has not created a new district court judgeship in any state since 2003 and has not passed comprehensive legislation to create new judgeships since 1990. This has caused courts across the country to become overburdened and has led to long wait times for Americans to have their cases heard. 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. Last 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. “I am glad to see this bipartisan legislation move forward so we can finally address this shortage by adding 21 judges to federal district courts throughout California over the next eleven years, strengthening our justice system while giving a voice to more Californians in the court of law.”

“Too many Hoosiers and Americans are being denied access to our justice system due to an overload of cases and a shortage of judges,” said Senator Young. “Our bipartisan bill will help alleviate this shortage and ensure all Americans have the opportunity to have their day in court. Senator Coons and I have worked diligently with our colleagues to ensure this legislation effectively addresses these judicial shortages and fairly distributes the additional judgeships across multiple presidential administrations. Today’s unanimous vote on our amended bill is a testament to bipartisanship and commonsense legislating. I urge the full Senate to pass this important legislation as soon as possible.”

“I’m delighted that the Senate Judiciary Committee has gotten serious about the crisis facing overworked judges across the country today by taking up and advancing my bipartisan JUDGES Act to the Senate floor,” said Senator Coons. “For too long, Congress has failed to add new federal judgeships to keep pace with the rising caseloads around the country, and our nation’s federal courts – especially in Delaware, where there are only four active judgeships – have paid the price. Senator Young and I worked with members of the committee on both sides of the dais to amend this bill and make it stronger; that the bill garnered unanimous support is a testament to the legislative process working as it should and as Americans deserve. I hope my Senate colleagues will follow the committee’s lead and pass this bill so we can get our judiciary working again.”

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. 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.