California Rep. Ted Lieu on Wednesday called for Congress to expand federal courts after former President Donald Trump pushed many circuits rightward during his tenure.
Lieu noted in a tweet that circuit courts have not been expanded since 1990, when the United States population was 249 million people. Since then, he said, the population has grown to more than 330 million, meaning that “it is time to increase circuit (and district) judges.”
Lieu singled out the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, where Trump hacked away at a liberal majority, for mention. Expansion of that is not an unprecedented suggestion. In 2019, the court’s judiciary’s policy arm, the Judicial Conference, asked Congress for five more circuit court judges, as well as 65 more district court judges.
Trump, in his final years, narrowed a liberal majority in the 9th Circuit from a margin of 11 judges to three. An expansion would effectively wipe out those gains, which are already in peril by the prospect of President Biden restocking the court with liberal judges.
Biden called for a commission to study court reform on the campaign trail. That commission, which is still being formed, will deliver recommendations on whether federal courts should be restructured. Although many activists have called on Biden to endorse expanding the Supreme Court, the president has waved away suggestions to do so.
“It’s not about court-packing,” Biden told CBS News about the commission in October. “There’s a number of other things that our constitutional scholars have debated, and I’ve looked to see what recommendations that commission might make.”
A collection of liberal court reform groups sent a letter to Sens. Lindsey Graham and Dianne Feinstein in December, calling for them to endorse lower court expansion.
“Our overwhelmed judicial branch is a crisis decades in the making,” the letter said, adding that “because our judiciary has too few judges, struggling to manage too many cases, the administration of justice is being undermined in this country.”