March 4, 2021 - Federal Circuit Insights

How Often Do Federal Circuit Judges Sit?

Since we’re all about data at Federal Circuitry, we took a quick look at what our data show about how often Federal Circuit judges sit each year.  To quantify that, we looked at how many different panel days each judge heard argument for 2018, 2019, and 2020.  We excluded panels convened to hear only one case.  That can happen, for example, because of a rare argument on a motion or for plus panels, where one judge of a main panel is replaced for a single case (perhaps because of conflicts or when a case comes back after a remand).

Here’s the result:

For the twelve active judges, the data confirm what we often hear – the judges decide many cases a year.  Each active judge averaged about 35 panel days per year.  Since each panel generally decides 4-6 cases (argued and submitted), even on the low end that’s 140 cases per year, or around 12 a month.  That’s just another reminder of the importance of clear, strong appeal briefs—judges often have to understand years of litigation and complex issues in a relatively short time.

Looking at specific judges, Chief Judge Prost sat the most days of any judge across this three-year span, followed by Judge Reyna and then Judge Lourie.  The raw numbers thus suggest you’re more likely to see (or lately, hear) one of those judges on argument morning.

The data also give some details about which senior judges you might find yourself in front of.  Judge Clevenger sat the most full panel days of any senior judge over the last three years; Judges Schall and Bryson tied for second.  Judge Plager sat the least days, so advocates had to settle for seeing Judge Plager in his amazing courthouse portrait (with his cat).

Check back soon for a follow-up post looking at monthly trends of when judges sit.