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Thursday, July 25, 2013

The D.C. Circuit workload: Senator Blumenthal sets the record straight

Watch Sen. Blumenthal discuss the caseload of the D.C. Circuit:

On July 24th, Cornelia “Nina” Pillard appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee for a hearing on her nomination to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Senate Republicans have long attempted to obstruct any and all of President Obama’s nominees to the D.C. Circuit, making him the first president in recent history to have no nominees confirmed to the court in his first term, and only recently allowing Sri Srinivasan a confirmation to the 8th seat on the 11-seat court.

Ranking Member Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) used the hearing as an opportunity to repeat a long-refuted argument: the D.C. Circuit is underworked, and so rather than confirm President Obama’s nominees to vacant seats, the remaining open judgeships should be stripped from the court in an effort that has been called “reverse court packing.” In fact, the Senate, with Republican support, has quickly and unanimously confirmed judges to the 8th and 10th Circuits, each of which has fewer cases per active and authorized judge. Grassley, attempting to shift the goalposts, is now arguing for a new measure: filed and resolved cases per active judge. Grassley even solicited anonymous support for his position from D.C. Circuit judges.

Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), chairing the hearing, swiftly refuted Grassley’s transparent effort to shift the focus of the Circuit’s workload. As a former attorney general and U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut, Sen. Blumenthal knows from personal experience that not all filings are created equal; cases vary remarkably in their complexity and the amount of time required to resolve. Indeed, the statistics Sen. Grassley cites – that the D.C. Circuit has fewer filings but higher active pending cases per judge – lend support to the reality that the cases heard by the D.C. Circuit are far more complex and time-consuming than those before other circuits. That is why the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts continues to recommend that the D.C. Circuit maintain 11 judgeships. Sen. Blumenthal came prepared with public statements from current and former D.C. Circuit judges – including Republican appointees John Roberts, Laurence Silberman, and Douglas Ginsburg – attesting to the increasing and highly complex workload of the nation’s second most important court.

Senate Republicans should stop trying to distort reality in their efforts to block President Obama’s highly qualified D.C. Circuit nominees. All three nominees should be allowed up-or-down votes without delay. We look forward to these distinguished legal luminaries taking the bench so that the D.C. Circuit can do its work with a full complement of judges.

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