Diluting Justice on Appeal?: An Examination of the Use of District Court Judges Sitting by Designation on the United States Courts of Appeals

According to a number of studies and commentators, a serious caseload crisis faces the federal courts. With respect to the federal courts of appeals, some have called for drastic remedial measures. Until Congress responds, the courts of appeals have been forced to adopt a range of coping measures. In this article, Professors Saphire and Solimine examine one of these measures, the utilization of designated district court judges on appellate panels. After discussing the origins and extent of this practice, they identify a number of problems it raises. They argue that extensive and routine utilization of district judges on appellate panels has the potential to adversely affect important goals of judicial administration, including the maintenance of collegiality and the consistency of precedent. They also argue that, by treating district and circuit judges as fungible, current designation practice calls into question the rationality of the federal judicial appointment process and threatens to undermine the quality of appellate justice.