Now that we’re nearing the end of 2022 (crazy, right?), we thought we’d update our data on when Federal Circuit judges sit. We looked at this in early 2021 (When Do Federal Circuit Judges Sit?), and we’ve twice looked at data on how often the judges sit (How Often Do Federal Circuit Judges Sit 2022?and How Often Do Federal Circuit Judges Sit?).
As a reminder, we’re looking at when Federal Circuit judges sit for oral argument. We count each oral argument panel a judge sits on. But we exclude panels that hear just one case, sometimes called plus panels because they’re often identified on the schedule with a plus (like Panel D+). One-case panels can happen for a variety of reason, such as for the rare oral argument on a motion or when a case comes back after a remand (so some portion of the original panel is reconvened).
Based on that criteria, the chart below shows the total panel days sat each month across all judges (active and senior) through August 2022. Since this is totaling the sittings across all judges, each typical panel in a month adds three to a month’s total (one unit for each judge who sat on the panel).
As we previously found, the chart confirms that the Federal Circuit tends to sit less frequently in the summer, especially in July and August.
But the chart shows something new since our last look—although panel sittings continued at a relatively steady pace throughout the many pandemic-related shutdowns in 2020 and 2021, 2022 has been different. Every month in 2022 so far has consistently had the fewest number of judge sittings in our data compared to previous years. And the drop in sittings is fairly significant, often around two-thirds the number of judge sittings in a given month relative to pre-pandemic numbers.
These results match what many readers probably had already anecdotally noticed. Although in past years, in non-summer months the Federal Circuit tended to have three oral argument panels per day during argument week, this year the Court has consistently had only two panels per day.
The results also line up with our recent observations about how quickly the Federal Circuit is scheduling oral arguments (Will Your Appeal Have Argument Soon? Part II). Since back in 2021, the Federal Circuit had been scheduling oral argument fairly quickly once briefing ended. That seemed to be because the Court had worked through any backlog of cases and because the number of new appeals had dipped. The drop in judge sittings per month in 2022 seems to be a delayed result of the same thing. But as we also observed, in more recent months, the time to schedule oral argument has significantly increased. That may mean that the number of appeals is picking back up, which could translate to a return to the previous norm of three panels per day during argument week. If that happens, you can be sure as always that it’ll show up in our data.