People For the American Way

What the GOP Isn’t Saying About the D.C. Circuit’s Caseload

Senate Republicans are working overtime to come up with ways to distract Americans from the unmasking of their partisan motives for blocking President Obama from filling the three vacancies to the D.C. Circuit – vacancies for which there are currently three unquestionably qualified nominees.

Their latest gambit – citing the number of written decisions per active judge – comes after their previous efforts blew up in their faces at a Senate hearing last week. Among other things, that's when Judge Timothy Tymkovich, the chair of the Judicial Conference's Committee on Judicial Resources explained that raw case filings – which the GOP has been citing as showing that the court has a low caseload – are not useful in determining the actual caseload of D.C. Circuit judges. He explained that it has an unusually heavy proportion of extremely complex administrative cases, and he specifically cited the high number of administrative appeals per panel.

The Administrative Office of U.S. Courts makes this data available on its Federal Court Management Statistics Archive. Below is all the data they provide for 2003-2006 (when Republicans pushed to fill the ninth, tenth, and eleventh seats) and all the data since early 2011 (when Senate Republicans began citing caseload as an excuse to block Caitlin Halligan).

From 2002-2006, the number didn't get higher than 119 in these reports. But since early 2011, it has been higher than that in every report but one.

Administrative Cases Filed Per Panel

  • 2002 (Sept 30): 100
  • 2003 (Sept 30): 98
  • 2004 (Sept 30): 119
  • 2005 (Sept 30): 117
  • 2006 (Sept 30): 105
  • 2011 (March 31): 121
  • 2011 (June 30): 143
  • 2011 (Sept 30): 129
  • 2011 (Dec 31): 133
  • 2012 (March 31): 149
  • 2012 (Sept 30): 140
  • 2012 (Dec 31): 130
  • 2013 (March 31): 112

So when there were fewer administrative cases per panel, the GOP said all eleven seats needed to be filled. But with a heavier administrative caseload, they say only eight seats are needed. And it's that administrative caseload that makes the D.C. Circuit unique and which Judge Tymkovich specifically cited in his committee testimony last week.

Let's keep that in mind when Republicans pretend that blocking President Obama's nominees to the D.C. Circuit is anything but partisan politics.


D.C. Circuit, judicial nominations, Lower Federal Courts, Obstruction, Obstructionism