Over 60 Federal Bar Association leaders educated Washington lawmakers and congressional staff about the federal court system and its needs during FBA Capitol Hill Day on April 26, 2018. This year’s annual FBA advocacy event advanced a common agenda of FBA policy priorities, involving approximately 200 meetings with House and Senate offices across the Hill.
Participants hailed from 21 states and 11 circuits and represented 35 FBA chapters and seven sections and divisions. They received a warm reception from the congressional offices and focused on four FBA policy priorities:
- Adequate funding for the federal courts to fulfill their Constitutional and statutory responsibilities in the upcoming 2019 fiscal year. The judiciary’s FY 2019 budget request of $7.2 billion in discretionary appropriations reflects an increase of 3.2 percent above last year. The funding will maintain current services across the judiciary and sustain ongoing initiatives, including cybersecurity improvement. Funding for the federal judiciary, a coordinate branch of our federal government, represents less than two-tenths of one penny of a taxpayer’s dollar.
- Prompt action in filling historic levels of judicial vacancies on the federal district and appeals court bench. There are historically high levels of vacancies on the federal appellate and district court bench that require prompt attention by the President and the Senate. Approximately 150 vacancies on the appeals and district courts—nearly 20 percent of the federal bench—were vacant when FBA advocates met with Congress. FBA is concerned because high numbers of vacancies on the federal bench impair bench strength and harm the delivery of justice, the economic interests of litigants before the courts, and the public’s respect for the efficiency of our judicial system.
- Establish additional Article III judgeships, as recommended by the Judicial Conference. The FBA supports the recommendations of the Judicial Conference of the United States, with the addition of five permanent judgeships in the courts of appeals, 52 permanent judgeships in the district courts and the conversion of eight temporary district judgeships to permanent status. Since the last comprehensive judgeship legislation was enacted in 1990, almost 30 years ago, the number of cases filed in the courts of appeals has increased by 40 percent and the number of cases filed in the district courts has increased by 38 percent. During this period there has been only a 4 percent increase in judgeships, with the last permanent judgeships created in 2002.
- Establish an Article I Immigration Court. Since 2013 the Federal Bar Association has urged Congress to establish an Article I “United States Immigration Court” to replace the Executive Office for Immigration Review in the U.S. Department of Justice as the principal adjudicatory forum under Title II of the Immigration and Nationality Act. The FBA has drafted model legislation to create an Article I immigration court and the proposal generated significant interest during FBA Capitol Hill Day meetings with both House and Senate lawmakers.
“Capitol Hill Day underscores the mission of the Federal Bar Association to represent the practicing bar as the foremost constituency of the federal court system,” FBA President Kip Bollin told participants at the start Capitol Hill Day. “We need to keep reminding Congress of the important role our federal courts play and their need for resources and support from Congress,” Government Relations Committee Chair West Allen added in thanking participants for their fine work.
The scheduling of next year’s Capitol Hill Day will occur in conjunction with the FBA Mid-Year Meeting and Leadership Training. Stay tuned for further details.