Costa looks to add judges to Valley’s Federal bench

California’s Eastern District court has not been able to keep up with the population growth, leading to cases being delayed.

Rep. Jim Costa (D–Fresno) is proposing a bill to increase the number of federal judges in the Eastern District of California to help meet the high demand currently bogging down the judicial system. 

Costa has secured bipartisan support for the bill, which is called the CASE LOAD Act of 2023. 


The big picture: The CASE LOAD Act would create five additional judgeships for the Eastern District Court, which covers 34 counties and spans from Bakersfield to Redding. 

  • Six permanent judges currently serve the district, which has a population of around 8.4 million people. That comes out to one judge for every 1.36 million residents, the highest in California. 
  • The Central District of California has the next highest ration at one judge per every 694,000 residents. 
  • The court has not added a judge since 1978, and with 40 million people living in the state now, California has about doubled in population since then. 

Bipartisan support: Fellow Reps. Jay Obernolte (R–Hesperia) and Doris Matsui (D–Sacramento) have joined Costa as cosponsors, and Sen. Alex Padilla (D–California) has introduced the accompanying bill to the Senate. 

  • A key provision in the bill that Costa hopes garner bipartisan support is how the addition of the new judges would be spaced out over three election cycles, meaning President Joe Biden would not be able to make all of the appointments. 
  • Two seats would be added in January 2025, one in January 2027 and the final two in January 2029.
  • It’s not the first time a measure like this has been proposed. More than 10 years ago, Rep. David Valadao (R–Hanford) pitched a similar measure, offering the Obama administration the chance to add seats and name judges to the bench.
  • His bill, dubbed the Central Valley Judicial Relief Act of 2013, failed to earn support from Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D–Calif.) and Barbara Boxer (D–Calif.).

What they’re saying: Costa held a press conference Friday morning outside of the Robert E. Coyle Federal Courthouse to announce the legislation and said the pending cases per judgeship as of June 2022 was 1,308 cases. 

  • “To have a strong vibrant judiciary means that every American ought to be able to access the court when they so need…” Costa said. “Justice delayed is justice denied, and so this legislation is to try to address that.”
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