Why Federal Magistrate Judges Can Improve Judicial Capacity
Judicial confirmations are often the subject of political debate. Recently, much of the discussion has focused on the Trump administration’s and Republican senators’ success in nominating and confirming federal judges. Irrespective of this success, consistently growing caseloads continue to overburden many federal district courts, leading to unnecessary cost and delay. This essay surveys the current judicial capacity crisis in many district courts and Congress’ struggles to resolve it. It then turns to short-term solutions that courts have used to alleviate their expanding burdens and highlights the federal courts’ most successful short-term solution: the federal magistrate judge system. This essay then introduces the origins and modern structure of the federal magistrate judge system and argues that, until Congress is able to pass substantive judgeship legislation, an ambitious expansion of this program would best serve struggling district courts.
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