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RELEASE: It’s Past Time for Congress To Increase the Number of Lower Court Judges

Washington, D.C. — A new column from the Center for American Progress urges Congress to increase the number of federal judges at the district and appellate levels, a critical step in addressing delays in the administration of justice as well as a judiciary that doesn’t fully represent the country’s diversity and the needs of everyday people.

Across the country, many litigants must wait years to have their cases resolved. The average time between filing and trial in federal civil suits, for example, is two years. And the large demographic changes in America’s population over the past three decades are not represented on the bench.

“The need for robust court expansion is clear,” said Maggie Jo Buchanan, director of Courts and Legal Reform at CAP. “Access to justice is taking far too long, and people are not facing judges that reflect the true diversity of America. Further, the lack of professional diversity is harming the quality of justice as well: Federal judges overwhelmingly come from private practice backgrounds, advancing the interests of corporations, instead of from professional paths dedicated to representing ordinary people.”

The last meaningful expansion of the federal bench occurred in 1990, when Congress expanded the circuit courts by 11 permanent seats and the district courts by 61 permanent seats. But a much more robust expansion occurred in 1978, when Congress expanded the federal and appellate courts by more than 30 percent.

An expansion similar to the one approved in the late 1970s would reflect the nation’s population growth over the past three decades and help align the judiciary more closely with the country’s demographic changes, the column says. This expansion should go into effect swiftly—as has always been the case in recent history—so that President Joe Biden can begin filling newly created seats with talented and diverse nominees.

Read the column: “It Is Past Time for Congress To Expand the Lower Courts” by Maggie Jo Buchanan and Stephanie Wylie

For more information or to speak with an expert, please contact Sam Hananel at  or 202-478-6327.