Colorado needs two additional trial court judges on its seven-member court, the policymaking body for the federal judiciary affirmed on Tuesday.
The U.S. Judicial Conference, which consists of members from all of the circuit courts of appeals nationwide, released a proposal to add 79 federal judgeships, 77 of which would be at the U.S. District Court level throughout the country. Congress last approved a comprehensive bill to add judges in 1990, and most recently added a trial court judgeship in Colorado in 1984, when the state's population was roughly half of what it is today.
The Judicial Conference's recommendation for Colorado has held constant since 2019.
Currently, there is one vacancy in Colorado's federal trial court, and U.S. District Judge R. Brooke Jackson has already announced he will step down as an active judge effective at the end of September. Colorado's U.S. senators have also made one recommendation to the White House to fill the existing vacancy, but so far there have been no formal nominations.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said on Monday the Senate would consider judicial nominees once the Biden administration's Cabinet is in place, which would "restore the balance to the bench" after four years of judge appointments from former President Donald Trump.
U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse has already introduced legislation to create three new judicial posts in Colorado. The Judicial Conference has declared a "judicial emergency" for Colorado, given a current volume of 641 weighted case filings per judge in a calendar year. The goal is to maintain 430 filings per judge.
"Since the last omnibus judgeship bill was enacted, the caseload in the district courts had risen 47 percent" prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Judicial Conference explained. "As of fiscal year 2020, filings in the courts of appeals had risen 12 percent since 1990."
Although not every judicial district in the country merited a recommendation for new judges, the Judicial Conference recommended boosting the number of judges in the Los Angeles-based Central District of California by 15 judges, and adding 11 judges in Florida's three judicial districts.