Even though the legal maxim holds that justice delayed is justice denied, criminal defendants are the only people involved in the federal court system who can expect speedy access to the courts. The government is constitutionally, legally and administratively required to handle criminal cases quickly to protect the rights of the accused. Civil litigants, however, must be prepared to wait.

According to the Judicial Conference of the United States, the median time for a federal civil case to proceed from filing to trial has increased by more than 70 percent since 1992, from 15 months to 25.7 months.

Since 2000, the number of cases in the system that are more than three years old has increased to 12 percent of the total federal civil docket, up from 5 percent between 1992 and 1999.

Those kinds of delays can be life-altering for an individual in a dispute, or highly disruptive for a business involved in a commercial or proprietary property case.

The judicial conference, headed by Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts, has recommended the creation of 65 permanent and 20 temporary district court judgeships and five permanent and one temporary circuit appellate judgeships to relieve the backlog.

The judicial conference and the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law have calculated that, even if every existing seat were filled, judicial caseloads still would produce delays because new filings have increased by more than 40 percent since 1992.

Congress should pass the Federal Judgeship Act of 2013 to ensure that Americans have timely access to justice through the federal courts.