On Wednesday, Colorado U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper introduced legislation to add three judges to the District of Colorado. The proposed expansion would be the first addition of new judges to the federal district bench since 1984.
“Our courts are integral to a fair and efficient justice system, but as Colorado’s population continues to grow, the District of Colorado is strained,” said Bennet in a Dec. 8 press release.
The senators highlighted that in 1984, the last time congress added an extra district judgeship, the state population was 3.1 million. In 2019, the population was 5.7 million, an 81% increase. The court expansion would help address growing caseloads for federal district judges in Colorado, according to Bennet and Hickenlooper.
Currently, Colorado has seven district court judges with four senior court judges, seven full-time magistrate judges and two-part time magistrate judges.
“More federal judges means more justice for Coloradans,” Hickenlooper said in the joint announcement.
Earlier this year, Colorado Congressman Joe Neguse introduced a bill to add three judges to the district in response to state population growth. Another bill brought by Georgia Congressman Hank Johnson in July proposed expansions to district courts across the country, including four positions in Colorado.
The District of Colorado is in a “judicial emergency” according to the Judicial Conference of the U.S.. Using a weighted case system, the national policy making body of U.S. courts estimates that judges in the U.S. District of Colorado handle 641 filings, placing the case load over the 600-filing emergency threshold. In its bi-annual recommendations, the Judicial Conference advised the addition of two permanent judgeships to the District of Colorado.
There are 79 federal judicial vacancies across the country, including one in the District of Colorado. President Joe Biden’s nominee to fill the vacancy, Colorado attorney Charlotte Sweeney, is currently still in the Senate approval process after the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary had a tie-vote on advancing her nomination.