Stewardship of Judicial Resources Should Trump Politics Print
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Written by Grassley Press   
Friday, 07 June 2013 14:11

by U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley

This week the President held a high-profile Rose Garden ceremony to announce his nomination of three judges for the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

News reports indicate the White House wants to put more of its own judges on the D.C. Circuit because President Obama is looking for ways to circumvent Congress.  Senate Democrats make such intentions clear when they say things like the President needs to fill the court by whatever means necessary, and that the D.C. Circuit was ‘wreaking havoc’ on the country by opposing administration policies.  Arguments for court-packing to gain advantage in public policy debates reflect a major misunderstanding of the purpose of the legislative and judicial branches of the federal government in our system.  It is the job of elected representatives of the people, the Congress, to make legislative decisions.  It is the job of the Courts to resolve cases and controversies.  Neither Congress nor the people who elect those who serve in Congress should want the Courts doing the job of making legislative decisions.

In addition, it’s hard to imagine the rationale for nominating three judges at once for this particular federal appeals court with the many vacant emergency seats across the country.  That is unless your goal is to pack the court to advance a certain policy agenda.  The D.C. Circuit ranks either last or nearly last in many categories for measuring workload.  There were nearly 200 fewer appeals filed in the D.C. Circuit in 2012 than in 2005.  In fact, the number of cases that each active judge handles is nearly the same today as it was in 2005, despite having two fewer judges.

I’ve introduced legislation this year to reallocate these judgeships based on workload and to use taxpayer resources wisely.  My approach to this is nonpartisan.  In fact, the legislative record will show that I previously twice introduced legislation to eliminate a seat on the D.C. Circuit during the Bush Administration.  My effort was ultimately successful in 2007, when a judgeship on the D.C. Circuit was moved to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which has a very high caseload.  In addition, nearly 20 years ago I conducted an exhaustive review of the workloads of the various federal circuits with the goal of distributing taxpayer resources wisely.

My effort then and my effort today is for good governance.  With the three D.C. Circuit court nominees this week, the President has picked a political fight, but there are legitimate and important policy questions about the resources of the federal judiciary that ought to outweigh politics.