Federal Judiciary Proposes Addition of 79 New Judgeships and Requests Supplemental Funding to Enhance Courthouse Security

On Tuesday, March 16, 2021, the Judicial Conference of the United States proposed the addition of 79 new federal judgeships along with initiatives to improve courthouse security and personal security for judges. The personal security initiatives are proposed in light of the murder last year of Daniel Anderl, the son of Judge Esther Salas. Despite bipartisan support, Congress did not act on the Daniel Anderl Judicial Security and Privacy Act before adjourning in December, but the bill’s cosponsors plan to reintroduce the bill soon.

The 26-member Judicial Conference of the United States is the federal judiciary’s policy-making body. Speaking at the biannual session of the Conference, Judge David McKeague said, “These security initiatives are necessary to keep judges, their families and staffs, and the public visiting our courthouses safe.” Daniel Anderl was murdered in 2020 after a litigant, posing as a courier, found Judge Salas’s home address on the internet. Judge Salas’s husband was seriously wounded in the incident.

At the session, the Judicial Conference also proposed increased funding for the U.S. Marshals Service. Congress previously provided funds in the fiscal year 2021 appropriations bill for the U.S. Marshals Service in order to replace outdated security systems at judges’ homes. The fiscal year 2021 appropriations bill also increased funding for the Marshals Service Open Source Intelligence Unit. In addition to the proposed increase in funding for the U.S. Marshals Service, the Judicial Conference also submitted a supplemental funding request to Congress with the goal of addressing existing vulnerabilities at courthouses. This request for supplemental funding comes in light of incidents at 53 courthouses last year due to civil unrest. On this topic, Judge McKeague said, “These incidents demonstrated the increasing threat to our courthouses and their occupants,” He continued on to state, “Our security needs require urgent attention to ensure that these types of things don’t happen again.”

Along with the focus on courthouse security and personal security for judges, the Judicial Conference also approved recommendations to ask Congress to create two new court of appeals judgeships along with seventy-seven new district court judgeships. In addition, the Judicial Conference will seek to convert nine temporary district court judgeships to permanent status. District court caseloads have risen 47 percent since the last omnibus judgeship bill was enacted in 1990. Specifically, civil cases have seen a 41 percent increase in filings and criminal case filings have increased by 72 percent. Filings in federal appeals courts have risen 12 percent since the passing of the last omnibus judgeship bill.

Additional Reading

Federal judiciary seeks 79 new judgeships, money to improve courthouse security, ABA Journal (March 17, 2021)

Judiciary Seeks New Judgeships, Reaffirms Need for Enhanced Security, Federal Judiciary (March 16, 2021)

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