WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) -- During a confirmation hearing Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley announced he is introducing legislation that would reduce the number of judgeships on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit from 11 to eight.

Grassley, R-Iowa and ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said his Court Efficiency Act would reduce the number of seats on the D.C. Circuit, but also add a seat to the Second and Eleventh circuits.

Grassley said the legislation would be a "significant step towards rectifying the extreme disparities between the D.C. Circuit and the Second and Eleventh circuits."

Republican Sens. Orrin Hatch, Utah; Jeff Sessions, Alabama; Lindsey Graham, South Carolina; John Cornyn, Texas; Mike Lee, Utah; Ted Cruz, Texas; and Jeff Flake, Arizona are co-sponsoring the legislation.

Grassley made the announcement at a hearing on the nomination of Sri Srinivasan to the D.C. Circuit. Srinivasan, who serves as the principle deputy solicitor general, was nominated by President Barack Obama for the first time last year and was re-nominated in January.

Iowa's senior senator noted that his legislation would not impact the seat to which Srinivasan has been nominated.

The D.C. Circuit is considered by some to be the second most important court in the country, after the U.S. Supreme Court.

The court often is responsible for resolving critically important cases involving the separation of powers, the role of government, the rights of federal officials, and the decisions of a vast array of administrative agencies.

In fact, it was the D.C. Circuit that ruled Obama's "intrasession appointment" of three new members to the National Labor Relations Board was an unconstitutional abuse of power because he could not make those appointments without Senate confirmation because the Senate was not in recess.

However, the court currently has more vacancies than any other federal appeals court -- four of its 11 members.

Last month, Caitlin Halligan took her name out of consideration after Republicans blocked her nomination again and again for more than two years.

But the D.C. Circuit also has the fewest number of appeals filed per authorized judgeship, Grassley said, pointing to last year's statistics from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.

Meanwhile, the Eleventh Circuit has five times as many appeals filed -- 583 compared to the D.C. Circuit's 108.

Grassley contends the legislation is an "efficient allocation of resources" and would save taxpayer dollars.

"Last Congress, the Congressional Budget Office scored legislation that would have created a number of new district court judgeships. The CBO concluded that the cost associated with those new judgeships would be approximately $1 million per judgeship, per year," he said during Srinivasan's hearing Wednesday.

"We do not have a score from the CBO, but given that we are reducing the total number of circuit judgeships by one, it will certainly be a cost saver.

"And it will be a significant step towards addressing the severe imbalance in the workloads between some of these circuits."

Legislation introduced in the Senate altering the number of judgeships is typically postponed until the beginning of the next President's term.

If enacted, Grassley said his legislation will take effect immediately.

Obama would still have the opportunity to make two appointments, the senator explained. The only difference is that those appointments would be to the Second and Eleventh Circuits, rather than to the D.C. Circuit, he said.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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