March Government Relations Update
The Latest on Public Policy and Advocacy Developments from FBA National
FBA President Anh Kremer and GRC Chair Rachel Rose have kept a steady pace of meetings with key members of Congress to continue to build awareness of and support for the FBA’s priorities, while GRC members and Chapter Presidents also are engaging with their elected representatives. In addition, FBA members Jeff Hennemuth and Elizabeth Stevens are working with other stakeholders and congressional staff to refine the language in Rep. Zoe Lofgren’s recently-filed Real Courts, Rule of Law Act (H.R. 6577). Long an FBA policy objective, this bill would use Congress’ Article I authority to move the immigration adjudication system out of the Department of Justice into an independent court system. Building support for H.R. 6577 will be a focus of the FBA’s Capitol Hill Day, scheduled for the week of April 25, 2022. Plan to participate in this hybrid event as FBA leaders and members from across the country meet with House and Senate offices to discuss important legislative issues that impact the administration of justice and the federal courts. Please visit fedbar.org for more information about this opportunity to help broaden the FBA’s visibility and influence in Congress.
1. Congress Finally Agrees to $1.5T FY 2022 Spending Package, Including a Funding Boost for Judicial Security
Both the House and Senate approved a $1.5 trillion spending package for FY 2022, just days before the current Continuing Resolution was set to expire. The legislation provides $7.99 billion for the Federal Judiciary, which is $267 million more than the FY21 enacted level, though slightly lower than the Judiciary’s requested $8.1 billion. The topline includes $704.8 million in funding for court security, a 6.1% increase from FY 2021. The additional funding may be used for “security systems and equipment for United States courthouses and other facilities housing Federal court or Administrative Office of the United States Courts operations, building ingress-egress control, inspection of mail and packages, directed security patrols, perimeter security, basic security services provided by the Federal Protective Service, and other similar activities.” $20 million is set aside for the United States Marshals Service, to be used for administering the Judicial Facility Security Program.
The Judiciary’s supplemental request for an additional $515.5 million for "urgent" security and cybersecurity needs remains pending.
2. Judicial Security Legislation Still Awaiting Senate Vote and House Consideration
The security funding provided in the recently-approved FY 2022 appropriations legislation includes money to fund a program to identify and pursue the voluntary removal of judges' personal information from the internet. This is a start, but the bipartisan Daniel Anderl Judicial Security and Privacy Act (S. 2340), which the FBA supports, would strengthen such a program by prohibiting data brokers and other businesses from disclosing the personally identifiable information of federal judges and their families. The status of the bill remains unchanged since February, however. It remains on the Senate Floor calendar, awaiting either a roll call vote by the full Senate or passage by unanimous consent, while the companion bill (H.R. 4436) has not yet been considered by the House Judiciary Committee.
3. Judiciary Financial Disclosures Bill Expected to Become Law Soon
Although not advocating for or against the Courthouse Ethics and Transparency Act, the FBA has been tracking its progress. On February 18, the Senate approved its version of the bill (S. 3059) without amendment, by voice vote. The Senate version has been sent to the House, which had already approved a companion bill and therefore is expected to approve and send the legislation to the President for his signature soon.
4. FBA Foundation Charter Legislation
The FBA continues to press for Senate passage of the Foundation of the Federal Bar Association Charter Amendments Act of 2021 (H.R. 2679). Having worked to address some concerns recently raised by Republican Senators, the FBA believes the path is clearing for the Senate to approve the bill by unanimous consent.
5. Judgeships Legislation Stalled in Both Houses
The FBA continues to work to educate members of Congress about the need to relieve our overburdened federal courts by creating additional federal judgeships. One bill is pending before the Senate Judiciary Committee (S. 2535), and two bills are pending before the House Judiciary Committee (H.R. 4885 and H.R. 4886), but neither Committee has taken any action. The FBA has not endorsed a particular bill or proposed solution but is urging members of both the Senate and the House Judiciary Committees to work in a bipartisan way to fashion a solution to this pressing problem.
1. SCOTUS Vacancy
Confirmation hearings will take place March 21–24 for District of Columbia Court of Appeals Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, President Biden’s nominee for the vacancy that will be created when Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer retires at the end of the 2021-2022 term. Judge Jackson has met privately with more than a dozen Senators from both sides of the aisle and will continue to do so until her nomination is called for a vote. Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin remains confident that the Senate can complete the confirmation process by April 8.
2. Judicial Vacancies, Nominations, and Confirmations
Overall, forty-eight of President Biden’s judicial nominees have been confirmed, while eighty Article III vacancies remain. Here are the current vacancies:
Current Article III Vacancies - As of March 14, 2022 According to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts
Eighty of 890 active federal judicial positions, including the United States Court of Federal Claims and the United States territorial courts, are vacant. Forty more judicial vacancies are expected by mid-2022, with eight nominees named in advance.
Thirty-three judicial emergencies in vacancies remain, based on caseload and/or the length of the vacancy, according to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. One emergency is in the 11thCircuit, five are in the New York district courts, and sixteen are in the California district courts.
The President made an announcement for a Supreme Court nominee:
The Senate confirmed four nominees in February, but no nominees have been confirmed in the first two weeks of March:
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