Seventy-four Federal Bar Association (FBA) leaders fanned out across Capitol Hill on March 21 to educate House and Senate lawmakers about the importance of the federal courts and their needs. This year’s annual FBA advocacy event, the largest ever, coincided with the FBA Leadership Summit and Mid-Year Meeting.
Participants hailed from 25 states and Puerto Rico, representing 11 circuits and 38 FBA chapters. Despite stormy weather on Capitol Hill, all delegates reported receiving a warm reception throughout the course of 200-plus meetings with House and Senate offices. In their meetings, FBA advocates promoted the following five FBA policy priorities:
Adequate FY 2020 funding for the federal courts. FBA supports the judiciary’s FY 2020 budget request of $7.6 billion, reflecting a 4.9 percent increase above last year’s courts appropriation. The funding will maintain current services across the judiciary and sustain progress on ongoing initiatives and priority investments, including the judiciary’s defender services. Funding for the federal judiciary, a coordinate branch of our federal government, represents two-tenths of one penny of a taxpayer’s dollar.
Prompt action in filling judicial vacancies on the federal district and appeals court bench. Current high numbers of vacancies on the federal bench should be erased because they harm the delivery of justice, the economic interests of litigants, and public respect for our judicial system. District court vacancies, in particular, deserve prompt attention by the president and the Senate. In mid-March, there were 140 Article III vacancies, including 129 district court vacancies.
Growing caseloads in our federal courts require more judgeships. Several district courts continue to struggle with extraordinarily high and sustained workloads. The severity of conditions in the District of New Jersey, District of Delaware, the Eastern District of California, the Southern District of Indiana, the Western District of Texas, and the Northern and Southern Districts of Florida require immediate attention. The FBA urges Congress to promptly consider the recommendations of the Judicial Conference of the United States for five more Ninth Circuit appeal court judgeships and 65 district judgeships.
Congress should establish an independent immigration court. There is broad consensus that our system for adjudicating immigration claims is broken and deserves systemic overhaul. Since 2013, the FBA has urged Congress to replace the Executive Office for Immigration Review in the Department of Justice with an independent immigration court to serve as the principal adjudicatory forum under title II of the Immigration and Nationality Act. Establishing a specialty court would replace a bloated bureaucracy with a new structure, modeled on the federal courts, with demonstrated expertise in delivering prompt, effective justice. Cheaper, faster, better justice is possible through an Article I immigration court.
Support for Foundation of the FBA Charter Amendments Legislation. The FBA urges Congress to pass the bipartisan Foundation of the Federal Bar Association Charter Amendments Act, H.R. 1663. This measure, introduced by Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) and co-sponsored by Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), would make technical changes in the federal charter of the FBA Foundation and better permit the Foundation to fulfill its role as the only institution in America chartered by Congress to promote the federal administration of justice, the advancement of federal jurisprudence, and the practice of law in the federal courts.