How Many Judges Are There on the Sixth Circuit Bench?

Charles Krebs, KLJ Sixth Circuit Blogger

Today’s blog answers one deceivingly simple question: How many judges are there on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals?
The answer, equally simple and yet equally deceiving, is 23.
Why is that deceiving? Because technically there are only 16 spots on the court. The Sixth Circuit started with just two judgeships in 1891. Two increased to six over the next 50 years (by 1940). The number of judgeships held at six for 25 years but shot to 16 between 1966 and 1990. Sixteen is where it stands today. Fifteen of those 16 spots are currently filled.
So why are there 23 judges currently serving on the court if there are only 16 judgeships? Well, that is because of another position on the court known as senior judge.
What is a senior judge? Essentially, a senior judge is a judge who decides to retire but continue working. For a judge to assume senior status they must fulfill the “Rule of 80.” That means that their age (once 65) plus their years of service adds to 80. For example, a 65 year old judge who has given 15 years of service can take senior status, or a 70 year old judge with 10 year of service.
A “senior status” judge receives the same salary in retirement as the other judges on the court as long as their work for a year is equal to the same amount of work that an active judge would do in three months. If they are not working in retirement enough to qualify for senior status the judge will receive the same salary in retirement as during their last year of active serivce.
Once a judge assumes senior status the President is then able to appoint a new judge to fill in the new senior judge’s spot on the bench.
In conclusion, there are only 16 spots on the Sixth Circuit bench, but because of the senior judge position there are actually eight more judges working and drawing equal salary as the active judges. This brings the total number of Sixth Circuit judges to 23.
If you have any questions or comments about this post or other questions, send them my way and I’ll hopefully be able to research and write something answering your questions.