Top House Dems want to pack federal circuit courts with dozens of new liberal judges

Many Democrats over the past few years have expressed their blatantly partisan desire to “pack the court” by adding additional Democrat-approved justices to the Supreme Court in order to counter and reverse the current Republican-appointed majority.

That idea was always a longshot, and now a group of House Democrats has slightly lowered their sights and taken aim at packing the several circuit courts of appeals with legislation that would add dozens of new judgeships across the country, the Washington Examiner reported.

If this legislation were to be passed, which is unlikely, it would provide President Joe Biden with many opportunities to appoint liberal judges who could sway or substantially alter the ideological balance of judges on the several circuit courts.

Packing the appellate courts with liberal judges

“Our circuit courts, including in the Eleventh Circuit, are overwhelmed,” Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA), who is leading the effort, said in a statement on Wednesday.

“To have a functioning legal system, we must have an adequate number of judgeships,” he added. “By adding federal judges through the Circuit Court Judgeships Act of 2022, we hope to ensure all Americans their day in court without undue delay, throughout the entire appellate process.”

As Johnson alluded to in his statement, the purported reason for his bill is to help address the legitimate issue of a massive backlog of pending cases in the federal court system, but in reality, this is little more than an overtly partisan attempt to alter the ideological makeup of the circuit courts in favor of Democrats.

Johnson’s bill would add a total of 51 appellate judges to eight of the circuit courts, with the vast majority of those new judges — all of whom would presumably be appointed by President Biden — dramatically expanding the size of the benches of the Second, Fifth, Ninth, and Eleventh circuits.

An actual bipartisan solution

To be sure, the backlog of cases in the federal judiciary is a real problem and the Examiner noted that the non-partisan Judicial Conference of the United States had recommended in March 2021 that 79 new judgeships be created, albeit with only two of those new judges at the appellate level and the other 77 at the district court level.

For what it is worth, an actual bipartisan solution was put forward last year in response to that recommendation by Sens. Todd Young (R-IN) and Chris Coons (D-DE) in what was dubbed the JUDGES Act, which stands for “Judicial Understaffing Delays Getting Emergencies Solved.”

That bill would have created the 77 new judgeships as recommended but would delay the actual appointments of those new judges to reduce the chance that all would be appointed by the same president and political party, as half would be appointed in 2025 while the other half wouldn’t be added until 2029.

It’s not happening

Rep. Johnson, who chairs an important subcommittee within the House Judiciary Committee, has been an outspoken advocate for packing the Supreme Court for clearly partisan purposes, and now he is attempting to do the same with regard to the federal appellate courts.

As noted, and given the limited amount of time left in the current congressional term and the partisan nature of the bill, Johnson’s legislation is unlikely to see any movement and is little more than wishful thinking. That said, if Republicans gain control of Congress for the next term, they could resurrect that bill or draft something similar with some alterations — such as delayed and staggered appointments — to actually address the underlying issue without trying to score partisan points.

Latest News