However, this simple count ignores a key feature of the federal judiciary: senior judgeships. Many judges do not retire, but instead choose senior status, which makes their seat officially vacant but places them on part-time work.This is the court that overturned President Obama's recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board, for instance. And the dominance of Republicans on the D.C. Circuit is the situation that Sen. Chuck Grassley has sought to preserve by proposing a plan to reduce the size of the D.C. Circuit, eliminating the seats for which Obama has nominated judges rather than filibustering the nominees. The Supreme Court rightly attracts the most attention. But the filibuster is reshaping American justice, and the federal government's ability to institute and enforce regulations, throughout the federal court system.
On the D.C. Circuit, there are six senior judges, which is almost the number of active judges, with five having been appointed by Republicans. In all the cases decided in 2013, almost 70 percent of the three-judge panels included at least one senior judge. As a result, almost 80 percent of the panels in 2013 were composed of exclusively or a majority of Republicans.
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