July 29, 2021

Young and Coons Reintroduce JUDGES Act to Address Judicial Emergencies

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Todd Young (R-Ind.) was joined by Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.) today in reintroducing legislation to address the judicial emergencies taking place in district courts across America in a non-partisan manner. The Judicial Understaffing Delays Getting Emergencies Solved (JUDGES) Act calls for action to increase the number of federal district judges in the most overworked regions of the country. Senator Young introduced the JUDGES Act in the previous Congress and penned an op-ed on the need for this legislation. 


Courts across the country are overburdened and facing a shortage of federal judges. As of March 31, 2021, there were 696,789 pending cases in federal district courts across the country, averaging 803 filings per judgeship. Earlier this year, the Judicial Conference of the United States, a nonpartisan policy-making body for federal courts, recommended that Congress create 77 new district court judgeships, including in the Southern District of Indiana, to help alleviate this crisis.


The bipartisan bill would act on the findings in this report by creating the recommended 77 judgeships after future presidential elections – half on January 21, 2025 and half on January 21, 2029.


“The current judicial emergency is hindering Hoosiers’ opportunity to have their day in court due to an overload of cases and a shortage of judges. This is a serious problem that has only escalated throughout the pandemic,” said Senator Young. “My bipartisan bill will help ensure all Americans can receive a timely day in federal court in the overworked regions of the country.”


Federal courts in central and southern Indiana are among the most overworked in the nation. In fiscal year 2020, for example, the Southern District of Indiana saw 1,100 filings per judge, which is nearly double the number considered a “judicial emergency.” The backlog of pending cases remains in the thousands, and more than one in five cases is over three years old.


“Lower courts across the country, including in Delaware, are struggling to keep up with growing caseloads,” said Senator Coons. “Congress has a constitutional responsibility to ensure that the federal judiciary is able to give every litigant their day in court and ensure that the justice system is accessible to all.  For too long, Congress has failed to act to enable the proper functioning of our courts, and I am proud to work in a bipartisan fashion to address this access-to-justice crisis.”


The last comprehensive authorization of new judgeships occurred in 1990, which established 11 additional circuit court judgeships and 74 district court judgeships across America. Since then, targeted legislation enacted between 1999 and 2003 created 34 additional district court judgeships. However, it has been over a decade and a half since Congress last authorized additional district judgeships.


Click here to view the bill text.