Republican proposes bill limiting DC Appeals Court seats

"President Obama knows these facts, so his nominations today to the D.C. Circuit are an obvious effort to pack a court that has frustrated his liberal, big-government ambitions," Cotton said.

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Obama nominated Georgetown law professor Cornelia Pillard, Akin Gump appellate lawyer Patricia Millett, and D.C. District Court Judge Robert Wilkins to the DC court. Recently, the Senate confirmed Sri Srinivasan to that court, but the nomination of Caitlin Halligan was filibustered and then withdrawn.

While Cotton is implying that Obama is "packing" the court, that term is not usually used when a President fills vacant seats. Instead, it refers to the practice of expanding seats on a court and filling them with like-minded judges in order to get a desired result.

Though Cotton claims that the D.C. Circuit Court has a fairly light caseload, its former Chief Judge, Patricia Wald, wrote in a February Washington Post article that the number of pending cases per judge has increased from 119 in 2005 to 188 in 2013.

In April, the Judicial Conference of the United States, which makes recommendations on the preferred number of federal judges per district and circuit court, did not encourage any increase or decrease in the number of judges presiding at the D.C. Circuit Court. In 2009, it recommended that the number of judges at that court be reduced from twelve to eleven, and this recommendation was followed.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) proposed a similar bill earlier this year that would reduce the number of judges on the D.C. Circuit by three and would add one judge each to the New York based Second Circuit Court of Appeals and the Atlanta based Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. The Judicial Conference, however, has not recommended that any additional judges be added to those two Circuit Courts of Appeals.