WASHINGTON — Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia says the quality of federal judges has suffered because there are too many of them.
Testifying before a Senate committee Wednesday, Justice Scalia blamed Congress for making federal crimes out of too many routine drug cases. In turn, that created a need for more judges.
“Federal judges ain’t what they used to be,” he said during a rare appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The federal judiciary should be an elite group, said Justice Scalia, who has served on the high court for 25 years. “It’s not as elite as it used to be,” he said.
He was responding to a question about what he sees as the greatest threat to the independence of judges.
There are 91 vacancies among the 874 authorized federal judgeships — including 32 labeled judicial emergencies by the Federal Judicial Conference, mainly because of a heavy caseload in those districts. The conference is headed by Chief Justice John Roberts.
Justice Scalia was joined by Justice Stephen Breyer for a wide-ranging discussion about the role of judges. The last appearance before this committee by a justice was four years ago.