H.R. 1021: Temporary Bankruptcy Judgeships Extension Act of 2011

H.R. 1021

Temporary Bankruptcy Judgeships Extension Act of 2011

Date
December 7, 2011 (112th Congress, 1st Session)

Staff Contact
Sarah Makin

Floor Situation

On Tuesday, December 6, 2011, the House is scheduled to consider H.R. 1021, Temporary Bankruptcy Judgeships Extension Act of 2011, under a suspension of the rules, requiring a two-thirds majority for passage. 

H.R. 1021 was introduced by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) on March 10, 2011, and was referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary.  The Committee held a markup of the bill on March 17, 2011, and ordered the bill to be reported, as amended, by voice vote.

Bill Summary

H.R. 1021 would extend the temporary office of 30 bankruptcy judgeships authorized or extended under the Bankruptcy Judgeship Act of 1992 and Bankruptcy Judgeship Act of 2005 until applicable vacancies identified in this Act occur in the office of a bankruptcy judge for specified districts in California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and Nevada.

The bill would prohibit filling specified bankruptcy judge vacancies occurring more than five years after enactment of this Act and resulting from the death, retirement, resignation, or removal of a bankruptcy judge (thus extending the lapse date under current law by five years).  

Background

According to the House Committee on the Judiciary, a bankruptcy judge is an Article I judge appointed for a term of 14 years.  Some bankruptcy judgeships are permanent; others are described as “temporary” because federal law prohibits the judicial district to which the temporary judgeship is allocated from filling a vacancy resulting from the death, retirement, resignation, or removal of a judge after a date certain (this so called “lapse date” varies among judicial districts and relates to when the judgeship was filled).

For example, the Eastern District of Tennessee currently has four bankruptcy judgeships: three permanent and one temporary.  The first vacancy in the office of bankruptcy judge in that district that occurs by reason of a judge’s death, retirement, resignation, or removal that occurs after April 20, 2010, could not be filled, so the district would lose a bankruptcy judgeship.  That date has obviously passed.  Many lapse dates for judgeships in other judicial districts have passed; others are in the near future.

The Judicial Conference’s 2011 recommendation to Congress was to create new bankruptcy judgeships or convert temporary judgeships to permanent judgeships in districts with heavy caseloads and to extend temporary bankruptcy judgeships in others.  H.R. 1021 would extend the lapse date of temporary bankruptcy judgeships in several judicial districts (including the districts for which the request was to convert a temporary judgeship to permanent status) by five years from the date of enactment.  Those districts are:

 JUDICIAL DISTRICT

JUDGESHIPS AFFECTED

CURRENT LAPSE DATE(S)

Central District of California

3

Jan. 18, 2016; Feb. 28, 2016; [5 years from date of appointment]

Eastern District of California

1

Jan. 14, 2015

District of Delaware

5

Apr. 20, 2010; Dec. 9, 2010; Feb. 23, 2011; Mar. 13, 2011 (2)

Southern District of Florida

2

Feb. 10, 2011; Feb. 13, 2011

Southern District of Georgia

1

Mar. 22, 2011

District of Maryland

3

Apr. 3, 2011 (2); June 19, 2011

Eastern District of Michigan

1

July 13, 2011

District of New Jersey

1

Oct. 3, 2011

Northern District of New York

1

Feb. 16, 2012

Southern District of New York

1

Nov. 30, 2011

Eastern District of North Carolina

1

July 28, 2011

Middle District of North Carolina

1

Nov. 23, 1998

Eastern District of Pennsylvania

1

June 28, 2011

Middle District of Pennsylvania

1

Sep. 28, 2011

District of Puerto Rico

2

Apr. 20, 2010; Nov. 13, 2011

District of South Carolina

1

Mar. 1, 2011

Western District of Tennessee

1

July 1, 2011

Eastern District of Tennessee

1

Apr. 20, 2010

Eastern District of Virginia

1

Sep. 11, 2011

District of Nevada

1

Sep. 1, 2011

 

CBO estimated the cost of the bill to include $5 million in direct spending for judge salaries and benefits.  The bill pays for those costs with offsetting collections resulting from a $42 increase in the chapter 11 bankruptcy filing fee.

Cost

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that implementing H.R. 1021 increase direct spending by about $2 million over the 2012-2016 period and about $5 million over the 2012-2021 period.  Pay-as-you-go procedures apply because the legislation would affect direct spending.  Enacting the legislation would not affect revenues.  Implementing the bill also would increase spending subject to appropriation by $4 million over the next five years, CBO estimates.