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Statement of the Honorable John Conyers, Jr. for the Markup of H.R. 2266, the “Bankruptcy Judgeship Act of 2017”

May 3, 2017

Every two years, the Judicial Conference of the United States undertakes a comprehensive survey of all judicial circuits to determine whether to request additional bankruptcy judgeships and whether any temporary bankruptcy judgeships should be extended. 

Earlier this week, I introduced H.R. 2266, the “Bankruptcy Judgeship Act of 2017,” together with you, Mr. Chairman, and Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Subcommittee Chairman Tom Marino and Ranking Member David Cicilline based on the results of the Conference’s most recent request to Congress.  I encourage my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support this legislation for several reasons.

To begin with, this measure reflects the Conference’s request, which itself is based on its highly prudential survey of judicial resource needs. This analysis consists of two components.  The first is premised on a case weight formula devised by the Federal Judicial Center intended to provide a more accurate and useful measure of judicial workload than a mere count of case filings.  The second component considers a broad array of other factors, including the nature of a court’s caseload, filing trends, demographic considerations, geographic issues, and economic aspects, among other items.  Taken together, the resulting analysis provides a reliable basis upon which Congress may assess the necessity of authorizing additional judgeships. 

In addition, H.R. 2266 addresses an immediate need.  All of the temporary judgeships addressed in H.R. 2266 will lapse as of May 25th, which is just three weeks away.  Once a temporary judgeship lapses, any ensuing vacancies may not be filled.  Accordingly, I share the Conference’s concern that the bankruptcy courts would “face a serious and, in many cases, debilitating workload crisis if their temporary judgeships were to expire.” 

This is particularly true with respect to the Eastern District of Michigan, which has a weighted caseload well in excess of the minimum necessary to trigger additional judicial resources.  Congress has previously extended temporary bankruptcy judgeships from time to time, but some have also lapsed as a result of Congress’ failure to timely act.  So, to avoid future lapses in judicial resources, my legislation converts these temporary judgeships to permanent status.   

Finally, I am pleased to report that H.R. 2266 pays for all of these judgeships without having to require consumer debtors to bear that cost.  The cost of this legislation is offset by increasing the quarterly fees that the largest 10% of chapter 11 debtors pay to the United States Trustee System Fund, a proposal initially made by the Obama Administration as part of the President’s budget request for 2017.  Specifically, the fee increase would apply only to chapter 11 debtors that have quarterly disbursements in excess of $1 million dollars and only during the period when the Fund has less than $200 million.

In closing, I want to express my appreciation to Chairman Goodlatte, Chairman Marino, and Ranking Member Cicilline as well as their staff for their cooperative efforts in working with me on this bipartisan legislation.  I urge my colleagues to join us in supporting this measure and I yield back the balance of my time.

 

115th Congress