President-elect Barack Obama’s ability to transform the courts by appointing liberal judicial activists would be enhanced by enactment of a federal judgeships bill that would create 14 new court of appeals judgeships and 52 new district judgeships. Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Pat Leahy introduced a bill, S. 2774 (available here), to do exactly that last March, and the bill, now pending on the Senate floor, has a number of Republican cosponsors. The bill largely mirrors the judgeship recommendations made in March 2007 by the Judicial Conference of the United States, but need one be cynical to suspect that the one-year delay between the Judicial Conference’s recommendations and the introduction of S. 2774 was designed to ensure that President Bush would not fill any of the new judgeships?
One minor note: S. 2774 distinguishes between regular judgeships and “temporary” judgeships (which expand the number of authorized judgeships for a court for a period of at least 10 years but not permanently). Because Obama as president would be able to fill the new “temporary” judgeships with lifetime appointments, the distinction between regular judgeships and “temporary” judgeships is irrelevant for present purposes. (But for anyone who somehow cares, the breakdown for the proposed new court of appeals judgeships is 12 regular, two temporary, and for district judgeships, 38 regular, 14 temporary.)