Federal Judiciary:

Information on Cases Assigned to Senior Judges in Fiscal Year 1997 in Four Circuit Courts of Appeals

GGD-99-17R: Published: Nov 30, 1998. Publicly Released: Nov 30, 1998.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the extent to which the case assignments of senior judges may have reduced the caseload of nonsenior judges in the four circuit courts of appeals (the first, second, sixth, and ninth) that have judgeship requests pending before Congress, focusing on: (1) each circuit's case filings as of September 30, 1997; (2) the number of senior judges in each circuit as of September 30, 1997; (3) the number of active judges in each circuit as of September 30, 1997; and (4) the number of times senior judges were assigned to cases filed in each circuit in fiscal year (FY) 1997.

GAO noted that: (1) senior judges handled the equivalent of from about 9 percent to about 16 percent of the total adjusted case filings in the four circuits in FY 1997; (2) consequently, the case filings assigned to nonsenior judges--whether measured as authorized judgeships or active judges--were reduced by the same percent; (3) if all authorized judgeships in each circuit had been filled, the adjusted case filings per three-judge panel of authorized judgeships in each circuit would have ranged from about 592 in the first circuit to about 750 in the second circuit; (4) deducting case assignments for senior judges reduced the range to between about 515 (sixth circuit) and about 655 (second circuit) adjusted case filings per panel; (5) authorized judgeship vacancies increase the caseload that must be borne by the active judges in the circuit; (6) if senior judges had not taken any case assignments in FY 1997, the adjusted case filings per three-judge panel of active judges would have ranged from about 696 in the sixth circuit to about 1,083 in the second circuit; (7) after deducting case assignments for senior judges, the range of adjusted case filings per panel of active judges was between about 589 (sixth circuit) and about 947 (second circuit); (8) the effect of senior judges' case assignments on the caseload of the active judges in the circuit depends upon the number of senior judges in the circuit and the caseload that they, collectively, are willing and able to undertake; (9) age is one factor that may affect the case assignments that senior judges are willing and able to accept; (10) as of September 30, 1997, the number of senior judges who were age 76 or older in each circuit ranged from two in the second circuit to seven in the ninth circuit; (11) senior judges who were age 76 or older represented from 25 percent (second circuit) to 60 percent (first circuit) of the senior judges in each circuit; and (12) the number of senior judges in a circuit may also change at any time.

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