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Lower courts need reform

While the Supreme Court is the most high-profile part of the judicial branch, the vast majority of cases in the United States are decided at the district and circuit court levels. Here too, our courts are in desperate need of reform.

Our circuit and district courts face two crises. While historically Congress has acted on a bipartisan basis to increase the number of judgeships to keep up with growing population and caseloads, during the 21st century, partisan gridlock has ground that process to a halt. As a result, our courts are overwhelmed with cases, leaving Americans waiting years for access to justice and courts forced to adopt shortcuts that hurt people who are not rich and powerful. Second, our courts face a crisis of diversity.

Judges in America do not look like the people they serve, and for four years Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell made the problem worse by stacking the judiciary with overwhelmingly white and male judges. We must now correct course by heading the Biden administration’s call to diversify the bench.

To address both crises, Congress and the executive branch should dramatically expand the number of circuit and district court judgeships and fill them with a group of lawyers who will enhance the courts’ legitimacy by improving their diversity. 

The 2020 Democratic Party platform acknowledged the problem and called for the creation of more judgeships. Additionally, 46 more organizations have endorsed the call for lower court expansion.