The federal judicial policymaking group voted Tuesday to ask Congress to create 67 new federal judgeships – 15 for the Circuit courts and 52 for the District courts. The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago isn ;t being considered for an increase, but a new judicial officer in the Southern District division would add one to the current roster of five – which has been the number since 1978. The Southern District also has eight magistrates. In comparison, the Northern District of Indiana has five judges, three magistrates, and a senior judge.
Congress has increased the number of District Court judges by 4 percent since 1990 but has not increased the number of circuit appellate judges even though case filings have risen about 55 percent in that period.
In other matters
• The conference also endorsed a 6- to 12-month pilot project allowing several courts to make digital audio recordings of courtroom proceedings publicly available online through the PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records) system. They have been available for purchase at clerks ; offices but not online. Locations of the courts haven ;t been established, but the plan says it will likely be up to the discretion of District judges and where judges volunteer to be included.
• Members also urged all federal courts using electronic dockets to end practices of creating "secret" dockets by making cases seemingly vanish online when sealed. Instead, the conference wants courts to clearly indicate when cases are sealed by using computer notices that say "case under seal" rather than "case does not exist."
• The conference also authorized and directed its Committee on Judicial Conduct and Disability to recommend guidelines and new rules for implementing the judicial disability statute in a uniform manner throughout the federal system. District Judge Sarah Evans Barker in Indianapolis was part of a committee that studied this issue and released a report in September. That report will now be used as guidance for what needs to be done.