People For the American Way

GOP Senators Continue to Pretend the Judicial Conference Doesn’t Exist

Several Republican senators have gone on the record saying they will filibuster the president's nominations to the D.C. Circuit because (they claim) its caseload is supposedly so much lower than many other circuit courts. PFAW has released a memo debunking this and other caseload-related talking points that Republicans are peddling.

To support their assertion, they directly compare the DC Circuit's raw caseload numbers with those of other circuits. But there is no shortage of experts who have pointed out that, because of the DC Circuit's unique caseload of complex administrative cases, comparisons to other circuits are invalid.

The point was made most recently in September by the chair of the Judicial Conference's Standing Committee on Judicial Resources, which analyzes courts' caseloads and makes recommendations concerning how many judgeships are needed to get the work done. Tenth Circuit Judge Timothy Tymkovich – a conservative who was nominated to the bench by George W. Bush – discussed this at a Senate committee hearing last month. He specifically explained why the D.C. Circuit's caseload is different from other circuits, so much so that the raw-number caseload statistics used for other circuits are not relevant to ascertaining the D.C. Circuit's caseload:

The D.C. [Circuit] Court of Appeals has been excluded from the pure numerical standard. We employ a different process with that court, because of the uniqueness of their caseload. They have a heavy administrative practice. They have something like 120 administrative appeals per judgeship panel, versus about 28 for the other Courts of Appeals. So historically, those types of cases have driven a more complex and difficult evaluation. Those cases have multiple parties, typically issues of first impression, big records, things that make them somewhat outliers [compared] to some of the cases we see in the other circuits. Some of those cases are exclusive jurisdiction in the D.C. court. So for that reason, we've excluded them from the same processes as the other circuits.

Chief Justice Roberts, who once served on the DC Circuit, even wrote a law journal article discussing the uniqueness of that court's caseload and citing its comparatively heavy caseload of appeals from administrative agencies.

So simplistic comparisons of case filings to other circuits are meaningless.

And Senate Republicans know it. They just hope that you don't.


D.C. Circuit, D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, judicial nominations, Lower Federal Courts, Obstruction, Obstructionism, Timothy Tymkovich